Andrea Dovizioso again led practice at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia Friday with a dominant showing on the wet, 5.5 km track. Dovizioso's 2'11.640 left him a half a second clear of championship rival and points leader Marc Marquez (2nd). Jorge Lorenzo seized the third-fastest time -- a mark that still left him a full second off his Ducati teammate's pace. Dovizioso must finish the race a minimum of nine points clear of Marquez to keep the championship fight alive for the season's final round in three weeks.
Aron Canet dominated a wet Moto3 FP2 Friday at the Sepang circuit with a 2'28.807 lap that put him more than half a second up on the field. More worriesome for the rest of the paddock should the rain continue through the weekend was Canet's consistent top pace in the wet track through the entire session.
Very little separated Bo Bendsneyder (2nd) and Nicolo Bulega (3rd) for the next two spots as rain fell for much of the session. Niccolo Antonelli completed FP2 seven-tenths off the top pace, closely chased by Enea Bastianini (5th). Adam Norrodin at sixth was one of two Malaysians in the top 10 at their home track. John McPhee, who crashed late, still managed seventh.
Miguel Oliveira just nipped World Championship points leader Franco Morbidelli to lead FP1 at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia Friday. Championship contender Thomas Luthi stayed in the hunt with a third-best 2'06.950, less than a tenth from the top spot. The top three riders in the first practice session -- who also are the top three riders in the standings -- were separated by less than a tenth of a second.
Andrea Dovizioso set the fastest time in FP1 with a 2'00.671 in damp-to-drying conditions at the Sepang circuit Friday in Malaysia. Alvaro Bautista, who was quick all session in the heat and humidity, earned the second-fastest Ducati lap, just in front of Yamaha's Johann Zarco (3rd). Dovizioso, who finished 13th last week at Phillip Island, must beat Marc Marquez by at least nine points to keep the championship fight alive for the 18th and final round in Valencia. Points-leader Marquez won last week's race in Australia and now leads the championship by 33 points with two races to go.
Newly crowned Moto3 champion Joan Mir grabbed the top time in the first practice Friday at the Sepang curcuit in Malaysia with a 2'13.129 lap with two minutes left in the session. Adam Norrodin, in his home race, set the second-best time at the session's end. The Malaysian bumped Livio Loi to third. Loi, who remains without a contract for 2018, briefly led the dry session. Romano Fenati, who won in Motegi three weeks ago, took fourth, just in front of Enea Bastinini (5th), completing a Honda sweep of the top five slots.
So just like 2015, the MotoGP paddock packed up after a breathtaking race in Phillip Island and headed to the sweltering tropical heat of Sepang. And once again, two riders fly to Malaysia with a clean shot at the title. Fortunately, though, this time there was no one to drip poison into the ears of the protagonists and sour the atmosphere at the penultimate race of the season. We can look back at an astounding race and savor it, without it leaving a nasty taste in the mouth.
The lack of added stress is welcome. The Sepang round of MotoGP is the toughest of the season, for a lot of reasons. "I think this race is the most demanding of all the season because it is very hot," Valentino Rossi told the press conference. It is not uncommon for riders to come close to passing out at the end of a 45 minute race in sweltering temperatures and steam room humidity levels. Conditions are oppressive.
Making things worse is the fact that Sepang is the last of the three Pacific flyaway races. Sepang is the third weekend in a row where riders have faced a 9-hour flight, followed by promotional activities in the MotoGP manufacturers' most important markets, followed by a full race weekend. They have gone from a chilly and soaking Japan to a chilly and mixed Phillip Island to the sweltering tropical heat of Malaysia, jumping in and out of air-conditioned vehicles, hotels, and aircraft to face the elements on a racing motorcycle. Coughs, cold sweats, and hot fevers are the order of the day.
Preview press releases from some of the MotoGP teams and Michelin ahead of the Malaysian Grand Prix:
Repsol Honda Team head to Malaysia for the last stint of the triple-header
Fresh from Marc Marquez’s brilliant victory in Australia, the Repsol Honda Team have rushed to Malaysia for the penultimate round of the season leading the Rider, Constructor and Team Championships.
With a margin of 33 points over second-place Andrea Dovizioso and a maximum of 50 points still available, Marc will have his first chance to secure the 2017 MotoGP Title next Sunday.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's Sepang round:
Morbidelli ready for Malaysian Moto2 showdown
This weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix is the first opportunity for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli to wrap up the championship he's led since the first race in Qatar.
Aleix Espargaro will not be racing at Sepang. The Spaniard broke a bone in his left hand when he crashed out of the MotoGP race in Phillip Island, and is to fly back to Barcelona for surgery. Aprilia will not replace Espargaro, his absence coming at too short notice to find a replacement rider in time.
Michael van der Mark is to get his MotoGP chance after all. After missing out at Aragon, when he was called up to replace Valentino Rossi, but Rossi raced to a stunning 5th place, Van der Mark has been drafted in to replace Jonas Folger in the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha team. Van der Mark will take Folger's place at the Sepang MotoGP race next weekend.