Given Marc Marquez' dominance of the 2014 MotoGP championship, the question is not if, but when he will wrap up his second title in a row. His original aim had been to win the title in front of his home crowd at Aragon, but crashes at Misano and then Aragon put paid to that idea. With a massive lead in the championship, Marquez heads to the flyaway races with his primary aim shifted from winning at all costs, to making sure he returns to Spain and the final round of the series with the title already safely under his belt.
Motegi is the first opportunity for Marquez to take the title, and wrapping it up there would please his HRC bosses, as the circuit is owned by Honda and operated by a subsidiary. But it is not a simple question of turning up and finishing, the reigning champion will have to ensure his rivals do not gain too much back on him if he is to lift the crown there. He has a 75 point lead over his Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, a 78 point advantage over Movistar Yamaha's Valentino Rossi, and a 90 point lead over the second factory Yamaha of Jorge Lorenzo. So what does Marquez need to do to win the title?
The first of the official announcements to be made over this weekend has arrived. Today, the FIM released the provisional version of the 2015 calendar for MotoGP.
The schedule is a virtual carbon copy of the 2014 calendar this year, with the order of the races the same as this year. A few minor tweaks have been applied to the calendar: the series kicks off in Qatar on 29th March, a week later than originally planned to avoid a TV clash with the soccer game between Barcelona and Real Madrid in Spain. Two weeks later, the circus heads to Austin, and the following week to Argentina.
Having the two races in the Americas back-to-back will create a much easier schedule than this year, where the teams faced a very long journey back from Argentina to arrive on time for Jerez. With a year of experience under their belt, Dorna's logistics and TV crew are now certain they can get the Termas de Rio Hondo track ready within the few days they have after Austin.
At Silverstone, the provisional testing calendar for the winter of 2015 was agreed. Preseason testing for the 2015 MotoGP season will take place at the usual locations, starting with the post-race test at Valencia, and continuing at Sepang and Qatar for MotoGP, while Moto2 and Moto3 go to Valencia and Jerez.
The 2015 season gets underway on the Monday after the final race of 2014 at Valencia, the MotoGP bikes testing from Monday through Wednesday. After the traditional winter test ban in December and January, testing will once again resume at Sepang, on 4th February. The MotoGP teams return to Sepang for the second test on the 23rd of February, before heading to Qatar. The dates of the Qatar test has not yet been fixed, as it depends on the date of the opening round of MotoGP at Qatar. That race will either be on the 15th or 22nd of March, but the date cannot be finalized until the Formula One series draws up a calendar. The Qatar test will take place a week before the race at the circuit.
The Sepang World Superbike races brought teammates to the fore today. All of the top teams have two-riders that need to get along and compete at the same time. Under the tropical sun, some of the partnerships may have changed beyond repair.
Press releases from the organizers and from the teams after Sunday's World Superbike and World Supersport races at Sepang:
2014 Sepang World Superbike Race Two Results: Race Restarted After Burning Bike Brought Out Red Flag
World Superbike race two started at 16:30 local time, with the schedule being shifted for the main markets to be able to see the racing.
The race started with Toni Elias taking the lead into turn one from an excellent start, with Sylvain Guintoli pushing past a few turns later when Elias wobbled out of a corner. Tom Sykes, with his wrist injured in the first race, was third until Marco Melandri passed him, setting up an Aprilia 1-2-3 ahead of a Kawasaki 1-2 tailed off by Baz.
On the fourth lap, Guintoli started eking out a lead from Elias but the red flags were brought out after Claudio Corti's MV Agusta leaked fluids onto the track and caught fire, much to Corti's surprise.
The opening World Superbike race was sixteen 5.5km laps for a total of 88.7 kilometres on a 52°C track.
The World Supersport race was fourteen long laps of close racing in 32°C sunshine with a track temperature of 48°C.
It rains almost every day in Sepang, and yet it has been dry for the last two days. Rain is predicted for Sunday, but that doesn't mean it's a certainty. Heat and humidity, however, are. New riders need to be reminded to take their helmets off when they get back to their pit boxes, and plenty of fluids need to be ingested.
The Hermann Tilke designed Formula 1 circuit suits motorbikes more than other car tracks, but the bumps, caused by braking cars pushing the tarmac into corners like a carpet against a wall, can still catch riders out, especially at the end of the faster stretches where you have to tip your bike in over corrugated road.
Press releases from the series organizers and World Superbike and World Supersport teams after qualifying at Sepang:
As the temperature rose to 35°C, the lap times dropped.
Superpole took place in a humid 35º climate and 60º track. The long lap length reduced the amount of chances each rider would have determine their qualifying place.
Sylvain Guintoli and Marco Melandri topped the sheets ahead of Superpole in the untimed practice session.