Dani Pedrosa has continued his strong weekend to date and topped the third MotoGP free practice session at Sepang, the Repsol Honda rider showed excellent consistency to edge out his compatriot Jorge Lorenzo by just over a tenth of a second while Marc Marquez completed the top three a further tenth behind. Andrea Dovizioso claimed fourth spot with a quick last ditch lap; the session was red flagged with just over two minutes remaining following a crash for Pol Espargaro. This resulted in a frantic final lap scramble as riders 'on the bubble' poured out of the pit lane and tried to nudge their way into the top ten and Q2 later today.
Stefan Bradl posted the fifth fastest time ahead of Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi and Aleix Espargaro while the Tech 3 pairing of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro rounded out the top ten. Espargaro had two crashes during the session, his second was a massive high side under braking into turn one and caused red flags to be shown as he lay prone on the track, his bike ablaze beside him.
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.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Sepang:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Sepang:
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.
Jorge Lorenzo has lead the way during a rain-affected MotoGP FP2 at Sepang; the session was initially delayed by twenty five minutes due to a torrential downpour that fell at the conclusion of Moto3 FP2 as the circuit was blanketed in thick cloud. Once the rain halted the wind picked up and managed to sweep the track and quickly dry it out enough for the riders to emerge from the pit lane. Lorenzo circulated with impressive consistency and ended up at the top of the time sheets, his benchmark time was some thirteen seconds slower than the pace set in the morning's opening practice despite the track drying considerably by the end of the session.
Niccolo Antonelli has topped Moto3 FP2 at Sepang in an extremely tight session; his time of 2:13.583 was a hundredth of a second quicker than Czech rider Jakub Kornfeil. Conditions were hot and sunny but quite humid as cloud cover had began to blanket the circuit over the course of the afternoon. Alex Marquez posted the third fastest time finishing ahead of his primary Championship rival Jack Miller by six thousandths of a second as two hundredths covered the top four.
Efren Vazquez claimed fifth spot ahead of his countrymen Isaac Vinales and Alex Rins while Danny Kent, Enea Bastianini and John McPhee rounded out the top ten placings. Warning flags were displayed around the circuit at the conclusion of the session as monsoonal rain began to fall, the unpredictably tropical conditions emerging much earlier on in the weekend than previous years at the Malaysian circuit.
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.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone previewing this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's Malaysian GP at Sepang:
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.