With engine specification for the leading MotoGP manufacturers frozen at round one, this week's pre-season test in Qatar offers their last chance to decide on a specification for 2018.

Engine work is receiving especially close attention at Honda, after difficulties following design changes in the previous two seasons.

HRC looks in much stronger shape for 2018, reigning world champion Marc Marquez fastest on race pace at both previous tests, while team-mate Dani Pedrosa and LCR's Cal Crutchlow have also topped the timesheets over a single lap.

However that was in the power-sapping heat of Sepang and Buriram. Even in such conditions Marquez was concerned that the more powerful engine may be too aggressive and the crisper evening air of Losail should give a clearer idea.

“I’m happy with our pre-season so far, as we’ve started a bit better than last year, but we must remain concentrated and focused on the work ahead," said Marquez, chasing a fifth premier-class title in 2018.

"Now we have to reconfirm everything in Qatar, which is a particular track, and not an easy one.

"We’re still working to best understand the new engine, working on the setup to adapt it as well as possible to my riding style. We already took a step forward from Sepang to Buriram, and we look forward to taking another one in Qatar.

"We’ve always focused our work on our race pace and consistency, and we’re generally happy with the feeling we have with the bike. We’ll try to be on the pace in Losail as well, and to get ready for the first race.”

While Marquez recently signed a new two-year contract, team-mate Dani Pedrosa is yet to confirm his 2019 plans. The Spaniard was fastest at the previous Thailand test.

“It will be very interesting to see how things go in Qatar, and also to have the chance to evaluate our engine there," he said. "So far we’ve tested it in two very hot places, and now we’ll need to set it up for a different situation and cooler conditions.

"Qatar is also dusty, and that will be another thing we’ll have to assess. Of course the goal is to arrive at the first race as prepared as possible."

The other major technical part to decide by the close of testing will be the 2018 fairing design, although with one-season update allowed that is not quite as critical as the engine.

Testing takes place from 1-9pm, Thursday-Saturday, with the final hour of the final day being dedicated to a wet test under the floodlights.

"Another thing that will be different is the ‘wet test’ that we’ll carry out on the final day; having had rain in Qatar on a few occasions in the past, we’ve been asked to give our opinions about riding there in the wet," Pedrosa said.

"We’ll see what the artificially soaked track will be like, and what feeling we’ll have on it."

The purpose of the test is to settle once-and-for-all if it's safe for MotoGP riders to race at night in the wet, something previously excluded due to potential vision problems when spray is combined with lights.


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