If you wanted a demonstration of just why the weather at Sepang can play such a decisive factor, you need look no further than MotoGP FP2. Fifteen minutes before the MotoGP bikes were set to take to the track, the Moto3 machines were finishing their second free practice session in sunshine and sweltering heat. But a couple of minutes before MotoGP FP2 was meant to start, the heavens opened, producing a deluge that had first-time visitors to Malaysia hunting around for gopher wood with which to build a boat.
The downpour covered the track in several centimeters of standing water, making it impossible to ride. The session was delayed for twenty five minutes, starting after the rain had nearly eased up completely. Once the session got underway, the weather cleared up completely, the last ten minutes taking place in glorious sunshine once again.
The changes in the weather had a dramatic effect on the state of the track. It went from being fully wet, with water everywhere, to having just a thin layer of rainwater on it at the halfway mark, to being dry at most of the corners around the track once the session ended. Full wets were essential at the start of the session, but forty five minutes later, slicks were starting to become a viable option.
Championship leader Tito Rabat has dominated the second Moto2 free practice session at Sepang, the circuit was bathed in sunshine at the start of proceedings but riders stayed in their garages as they waited for the track to dry out completely. After twenty five minutes of lost time bikes began to emerge from the pit lane and got down to business. Rabat's time of 2:07.729 was the quickest of the day and put him almost half a second clear of his countryman Maverick Vinales in second.
Mika Kallio took third spot a further three tenths behind his team mate Rabat, he finished ahead of Luis Salom and Takaaki Nakagami. Jonas Folger posted the sixth fastest time and was followed on the time sheets by Tom Luthi, Johan Zarco and Axel Pons. QMMF bound rider Julian Simon rounded out the top ten.
2014 Sepang MotoGP Preview: The End Of MotoGP's Asian Peregrinations Beckon In The Sweltering Sepang Heat
Another week, another 8 hour flight, another race track. Sepang comes as the last of three grueling weekends chasing around the Pacific Ocean to race in Japan, Australia, and now Malaysia. Even from the comfort of my European home (I lack the funds and, to a lesser extent, the inclination to pursue the paddock halfway around the world), it has been a tough schedule, and the riders and team members I have spoken to about it are all just about ready to come home. Nearly a month away from home, sharing flights, hire cars and hotel rooms can be grating even for the best of friends. Add in the stresses and tensions of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and a lot of people are gritting their teeth and doing their best not to punch the people they work with. Some will even make it home without doing so.
The final leg of MotoGP's odyssey sees the circus travel from Phillip Island, nearly halfway to the South Pole, to Sepang, not far north of the equator. Yet though they are a quarter of a world away, the two have one thing in common: weather. The actual conditions may be different, the cold, changeable climate of Phillip Island a far cry from the sweltering heat of Malaysia, but at both tracks, the weather plays a much greater role in the proceedings than at other tracks. Judging conditions, and preparing for them, is crucial.
If anything, putting Sepang at the end of the trio of flyaways is a difficult decision. The heat and intense humidity at the track makes it the most physically demanding of the three races. Severe dehydration lies waiting for the unwary or the out of shape, if they do not drink enough to recover the fluids lost through sweat and exertion. This is a race which richly deserves its reputation as the most punishing of the year.
The FIM today released the provisional entry list for the 2015 Moto2 class, consisting of 31 entries for next season. Most of the championship contenders remain, with only Maverick Viñales making the move up to MotoGP. They are joined by the two top contenders from Moto3, Alex Rins and Alex Marquez, withMarquez going to the Marc VDS team, and Rins taking the place of Viñales at the Pons HP40 team.
The biggest change in Moto2 is the continuing transformation into an almost completely spec class. A collective fear of risk and innate conservatism sees the vast majority of Suter teams abandon the Swiss chassis builder in favor of Kalex, leaving just a single Suter on the grid, the German rookie Florian Alt at the cash-strapped IODA Racing team. The migration from Suter is odd, as the Swiss chassis builder has two wins, three 2nd places, and six 3rd place finishes, which would suggest that the chassis is extremely competitive.
The mass flight to Kalex means that 23 riders will be on the German chassis. All of the 2014 teams will receive 2015 material, while the newcomers will race the 2014 chassis. In addition to Kalex and Suter, there will be three Tech
The full list of entries for Moto2 appears below. It is still provisional, and so changes may still occur up until the start of the season.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's Malaysian GP at Sepang:
2014 Phillip Island Sunday Round Up: Why The MotoGP Race Was Not A Tire Fiasco, And Rossi Reaps Rewards
Once again, a MotoGP race at Phillip Island is decided by tires. The tires Bridgestone brought to the Australian circuit were not up to the task, with riders crashing out all throughout the race. The front tires Bridgestone brought to the track were unable to cope with the conditions. The result was determined by tires, not by talent.
That, at least, is the narrative being heard around the internet after the bizarre yet fascinating MotoGP race at Phillip Island. It is an attractive narrative – a nice, simple explanation for what happened in Australia – but it is fundamentally flawed. The tire situation was complicated, certainly. Jorge Lorenzo's front tire showed very severe degradation, more than would normally be explained by the expected wear. Several riders crashed out on the asymmetric front tire Bridgestone brought. But to lay the blame entirely on Bridgestone is quite wrong.
The problems at Phillip Island are inherent to the track, and were exacerbated by changes made to suit European TV schedules. Phillip Island, like Assen, is a track which places peculiar demands on tires. It features a lot of very fast left-hand corners, with only a few right handers, two of which are the slowest corners on the track. It is located next to the Bass Strait, a freezing stretch of water connected to the globe-spanning Southern Ocean, which means the weather is highly changeable. Temperatures dropped during the race by as much as 9°C, probably a result of Dorna insisting on running the race at 4pm local time (the late afternoon) to hit a 7am TV slot in their main markets of Spain and Italy. That time will draw a bigger audience than the 5am slot a 2pm race start would fill. But to locals, racing at 4pm at this time of the year is madness.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 after Sunday's thrilling races at Phillip Island:
Full Recap and Results Below.
Tito Rabat has maintained his position at the top of the Moto2 class at Phillip Island following the morning Warm Up session, the field appear to have closed the gap to the Championship leader however as he edged out Sam Lowes and Marcel Schrotter by less than a tenth of a second. The competitive nature of the field was further emphasized by the top 20 riders lap times being separated by just over one second which should make for a highly entertaining race later this afternoon.
Azlan Shah, Axel Pons and Robin Mulhauser didn't take part in the session after all riders were declared unfit to race due to injuries picked up yesterday.
2014 Phillip Island Saturday Round Up: The Rufea Team's Front Row Sweep, Winning Attitude, And The Secret Of Riding The Ducati
The three men on pole for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix have a lot in common. One is already champion in MotoGP, another could become champion on Sunday, the other looks to have taken control of the Moto3 title chase in the past few races. The MotoGP and Moto3 pole sitters are brothers, and the man on pole for Moto2 is a good friend of the brothers. Most importantly, perhaps, all three train together.
The "Rufea Team", as they are known to the Spanish media and among themselves, spend long days pushing each other hard at the dirt track oval in Rufea, a small parish outside of Lleida in Spain. Moto2 championship leader Tito Rabat doesn't spend as much time there as the Marquez brothers Marc and Alex, as he is mainly based in Almeria, where he spends his days whittling away the circuit record. But when he does go, the three go all out for glory, even though they are only racing among themselves, and in front of a couple of friends, and maybe the Marquez brothers' father Julià.
Is it coincidence that the trio should find themselves leading their respective championships? Marc Marquez has already proved his talent, by wrapping up four world championships, including three in a row. Tito Rabat has grown enormously as a rider after switching to the Marc VDS Racing team, and stepping out of the shadow of Pol Espargaro at Pons. Alex Marquez already proved himself in the Spanish championship, got up to speed in Moto3 last year, and is proving to be the steadiest of the Moto3 riders.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Phillip Island:
Full Recap and Results below.