Dovizioso: Impossible to understand Honda pace so far

Andrea Dovizioso feels accurately gauging Honda’s pace at the Sepang MotoGP test is impossible due to Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow returning from operations while Jorge Lorenzo is out injured

Andrea Dovizioso feels trying to accurately gauge Honda’s pace at the start of 2019 pre-season testing is impossible due to Marc Marquez and Cal Crutchlow returning from their respective operations while Jorge Lorenzo is out injured.

The factory Ducati rider says it is too early to predict any of the front-runners’ true pace following the first three-day pre-season test at Sepang with the final day dominated by the Italian manufacturer in a top-four lockout.

Despite Ducati’s surge at the Malaysian track, Dovizioso has played down any clear advantage due to both circuit conditions unlikely to be representative of race weekends while only one of Honda’s race riders was fully fit at Sepang.

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Reigning MotoGP world champion Marquez is recovering from left shoulder surgery which limited his ability to push to peak performance, while his new Repsol Honda team-mate Lorenzo missed the test with a fractured scaphoid.

LCR Honda’s Crutchlow was also returning from injury at Sepang, making his first MotoGP appearance since his nasty ankle break suffered at Phillip Island last October. Aside from Honda test rider Stefan Bradl stepping in for Lorenzo, Takaaki Nakagami was the sole race rider 100% fit for the Sepang test.

“It is too early to understand,” Dovizioso said when asked to assess Ducati’s rivals. “It was impossible to understand the Hondas as their riders are not in a good shape.

“I think the Yamaha is a bit better and the two riders started a bit better than last year so I expect them a bit stronger than at the beginning. And Rins I think is fast, really fast, but it is too early.

“I am happy because we tried everything we wanted, this is really important, and we found really good conditions. This is not the real conditions to the weekend, this is the only bad thing because we couldn’t ride the bike in the same conditions as the race.”

Dovizioso did tip Vinales’ pace for Yamaha as the best of the rest behind the top four Ducati riders but he remains confident the base setup of the Bologna-based squad remains a strong package with its 2019 updates.

“The pace of Maverick was really fast and the track was faster than day two so it is difficult to compare pace with him,” he said. “But to finish with four Ducatis, young rider, old riders on top is good because it is another confirmation of our base and the base is good to make the lap time.

“We worked very well with Danilo to make a long run and you see when you follow riders with used tyres how is their speed.”