Ducati, Yamaha, Aprilia, KTM and then Honda.

That was how the MotoGP manufacturers finished last season in terms of the constructors’ championship ranking if fifth place Suzuki is removed.

In the latest edition of the Crash.net MotoGP podcast, host Harry Benjamin asked Pete McLaren and Keith Huewen to list how they think the competitive hierarchy now stands after the opening test of the year at Sepang.

MotoGP 2023 Sepang Test Special | Crash MotoGP Podcast 76

Both agreed Ducati remains the bike to beat and think that Aprilia - which only lost second in the constructors’ standings to Yamaha after a double DNF at the Valencia finale - looks best of the rest.

But there was disagreement over whether KTM or Honda now has the most catching up to do ahead of the final test in Portimao on March 11-12.

Honda riders finished 10th (Marc Marquez), 12th (Joan Mir), 18th (Alex Rins) and 21st (Takaaki Nakagami) at Sepang, with the KTM/GASGAS competitors classified 13th (Pol Espargaro), 14th (Brad Binder), 16th (Jack Miller) and 22nd (rookie Augusto Fernandez).

“Ducati, Aprilia, Yamaha… KTM, Honda,” McLaren said.

“Honda at the back?” responded former grand prix rider and British champion Huewen.

“I’d change that slightly and move the Honda in front of the KTM, but that would be about it.”

McLaren said: “I’d put Marc ahead of the KTMs...”

“You got out of that well!” joked Huewen.

Huewen then described what will be happening back at factory headquarters between now and Portimao:

“There’s a massive debrief and data download. Knee jerk decisions don’t work. It's got to be a meticulous look through the data to see if they've missed anything while they’ve been on site.

“With such limited testing, you cannot get through everything you need to. And there are so many variables - from throttle pick-up to aero - that contribute to the overall lap time. The problem is if you alter one of them, you might have to alter another to compensate.

“Then there are the engineers who have also swapped teams and are still getting up to speed, including Ken Kawauchi who has moved from Suzuki to Honda.

"His methodology and way of working will be an asset to Honda, there is no doubt about it because you cannot afford to waste a second of time on the track or in the garage.

“But Portimao is also a completely different challenge. It’s like a motocross track in comparison to Sepang. So it will be interesting to see whether Ducati still has the same kind of advantage that they had in Sepang.

“And then the weather comes into it. Portimao could be red hot or blowing a gale and chucking it down.”

‘Things could turn on their heads still’

McLaren said: “Things could turn on their heads still. You’ve got some teams that have left Sepang thinking they are pretty much set in terms of their bike package, Jorge Martin said he was ready to race the 2023 Ducati after day two for example, but what if they get to Portimao and it doesn’t work? Big alarm bells will ring because the race is shortly after.

“Either way, you’ve got just two pre-season tests to gather data and try to predict what will work over an entire world championship of 21 different circuits.

"It’s so hard to make a judgement call on what parts you should pick. But they are going to have to do it, especially in terms of the engine which will be fixed for the season at round one, and the aero, where they are only allowed one update during the season.”

Huewen added: “In a way the engine is probably the easier bit because they are already out of time to manufacturer anything different for Portimao. You might be able to make some minor changes but not anything massive. But the aero is going to be critical.”

McLaren: “It was interesting because some riders felt Portimao was a better place to test aero, but others said Sepang was better.

“Either way, some teams said they still have aero parts for Portimao and I wouldn’t be surprised if more than one factory has deliberately held something back because the Portimao test will be too late for the others to copy them for the start of the season.”

“That’s again where Ducati have the advantage with their eight riders, because they can test with different aero packages and spread the workload out in a short space of time,” said Huewen. “Meanwhile, Yamaha only has two race riders.”