The old swagger is back - and with good reason. Jorge Lorenzo believes both he and Ducati will be among the MotoGP championship challengers if they can successfully replicate the speed shown at Sepang after he ended the three-day test with the fastest time.

The five-time world champion was under the three-year old outright circuit record early into Tuesday’s on-track action to lap in the 1m 58.8s – an “unbelievable” effort, according to old team-mate Valentino Rossi.

But aside from the blistering speed, Lorenzo’s comments on the much-improved Ducati GP18 suggest the Majorcan could be placed to replicate some of his best form in 2018.

Trackside observers noted a rider operating with less effort, and greater ease through the three days, information confirmed by several riders that had followed Lorenzo through the third day.

“All credit to him because he’s really turned himself around from when he first rode the Ducati to now,” said Cal Crutchlow, two places back of the Majorcan. “He’s done an incredible job.”

To everyone inside the Bologna factory’s great relief, the new bike turns better and allows Lorenzo to apply the throttle earlier – crucial for his inimitable riding style that depends on maximum lean and dizzying corner speed.

According to Lorenzo, he changed his style ’80 percent’ through 2017, his first year on Ducati machinery. But “during the winter, Ducati made the difference this time,” he said. If his comments were anything to go by, the year ahead could be very promising, indeed.

“As we see last year, the tyres have a lot of influence from one track to another,” Lorenzo said. “The championship is very close. Four or five brands are very competitive. From one track to another, some brands can be ahead of the other ones, and at the next tracks, the opposite.

“So for this track the new bike is better to be fast for one lap. We have to see for all the race because we didn’t have the chance to make a full simulation. The feelings are very good. As I told you on the first day, this bike gives me more confidence and it’s more adapted to my riding.

“The bike turns better and I can open the throttle before. Finally if the bike itself turns better and you can open the throttle better, you can be faster. Let’s say that during the last year, I made 80 percent and now during this winter to this test, as I predicted, Ducati made the difference this time.”

So can he win this year’s world title? “I think you cannot predict something like that for the moment,” came the reply. “To win a world title you need a lot of things.” How about challenge? “If we are the same [speed] as we are today, for sure,” he stated.

Aside from the speed and pace of Lorenzo and team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, there is yet more promising news for Ducati. The chassis both men used this week is not the final ’18 frame. A further update is due to arrive in time for the next outing in Thailand.

On what Ducati could improve further, Lorenzo added, “Well, you always try to improve in general everything. You don’t stop trying to improve all the areas. Not the engine, not the chassis, not the electronics. So always all the factories must improve in each way but sometimes you cannot.

“This time, as I told you, the chassis improves, the engine is more smooth in the corner. Probably still we have to improve in the higher RPM but we’ll keep working. We’ll find a way to make it.

“Still I think we have quite a big margin. We didn’t arrive yet to the maximum potential. This is a good sign because we finished first today and still we have some margin.”

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