Malaysian Grand Prix, Sepang: Preivew – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
Marc Marquez’s rivals have a mountain to climb at the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Sepang this weekend to chase down the Repsol Honda Team rider’s 39-point lead in the MotoGP™ World Championship with only four races to go.
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo is his closest challenger, and will be giving his all to try and haul back points on the Repsol rookie, who last time out in Aragon made the headlines for not only his latest win. His contact with teammate Dani Pedrosa, which led to the rear wheel sensor of the latter failing – resulting in a big highside – will be discussed by Race Direction and the riders on the Thursday before the Malaysian Grand Prix.
Pedrosa, who now sits 59 points behind Marquez after his crash, is well aware that his title chances rely on him winning the remaining races, whilst needing some worse results from Lorenzo and Marquez. This is perhaps where Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi could come in, as the Italian is desperate for another win, and showed true glimpses of such pace in Aragon practice and qualifying. He will aim to take the next step at Malaysia to challenge the top three.
Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Cal Crutchlow will hope that his lack of top-end speed from his new engine is solved before the race on the fast Malaysian circuit, whilst rookie teammate Bradley Smith is pleased to not have to learn a new track on a MotoGP™ bike, as he has spent a good amount of time testing there like the others on the grid. The satellite Hondas in the form of GO&FUN Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista and LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl had a great battle in Aragon, which is something they will no doubt want to repeat – albeit with a podium finish as the result.
For the Ducati Team it will once again be a weekend of trying to get the bike closer to the Japanese manufacturers, as Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden battle it out for best teammate honours. The satellite Pramac Racing team will be hoping for a positive weekend like in Aragon, where Ben Spies’ replacement due to injury, Yonny Hernandez, continued to get to grips with the Ignite Pramac machine. Alongside teammate Andrea Iannone on the Energy T.I. bike, Hernandez hopes that his riding style can reap good results on the Desmosedici.
In the CRT class, it has now been confirmed that Italian Luca Scassa will be in for Karel Abraham in the Cardion AB Motoracing team until the end of the season, while Australian Damian Cudlin will continue to stand in for Hernandez in the PBM team. Both made great progress in Aragon, and will hope to get their bikes as close as possible to CRT front-runner Aleix Espargaro on his Power Electronics Aspar ART.
The Moto2™ title hunt intensifies this weekend at the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Sepang as Tuenti HP 40’s Pol Espargaro tries to overhaul championship leader, Marc VDS Racing Team’s Scott Redding.
With only 20 points separating the two, and Espargaro getting the better of the Brit last time out in Aragon, Redding will be hoping to strike back in Sepang, as he once again tries to strengthen his grip on the lead.
The pair will face stiff competition however, as the rest of the grid is getting stronger race by race, with Aspar Team Moto2’s Nico Terol a prime example by taking a dominant win last time out. And Pons’ Esteve Rabat, who is still in with a good shout at the title, will no doubt be another big podium favourite.
Alex Mariñelarena will once again substitute for Dani Rivas in the Blusens Avintia team, with the latter still suspended for the crash he caused in Silverstone Warm-up. And there will also be two wild cards on the grid in the form of Malaysia’s Hafizh Syahrin, who only narrowly missed out on a podium last year with the Petronas Raceline Malaysia team, as well as Thai rider Decha Kraisart with the Singha Eneos Yamaha Tech3 outfit.
The Moto3™ championship is finely poised as it heads out east to the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix with Estrella Galicia 0,0’s Alex Rins only nine points off championship leader Luis Salom.
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Salom is also only 12 points ahead of Team Calvo’s Maverick Viñales, truly making the battle at the front a three-horse race with still 100 points up for grabs. Salom was not on his usual form last time out in Aragon, and will be hoping to re-discover some of the magic, with Rins and Viñales looking particularly strong at the moment.
Red Bull KTM’s local rider Zulfahmi Khairuddin will be able to line up at his home race despite undergoing surgery on his fractured right wrist after a crash in Aragon. Last year he was only just pipped to a win by Sandro Cortese (current Moto3™ World Champion now in Moto2™), meaning that this year he will be aiming for one better.
There will however be greater Malaysian representation on the grid this year with two other local riders lining up in the form of wild cards. Touchline-SIC-Ajo KTM will field Aizat Malik and Hafiq Azmi, who will both look to impress the home crowd.