Franco Morbidelli topped the timesheets in the second session of free practice for the Moto2 class at Sepang. The Marc VDS rider took advantage of ever improving track conditions to set the fastest time in his final run, knocking teammate Alex Marquez off top spot. Marquez was knocked further down into third place, when Taka Nakagami put in a quick lap in the end to finish second.
The rain the series had been waiting for came during the Moto2 session. The session was interrupted by a red flag, after a series of crashes at Turn 14. Sam Lowes was one of the fallers, and then collided with Johann Zarco as he rejoined the track. Rain started fallling when the session restarted, leaving Tom Luthi as fastest, ahead of Marcel Schrotter and Alex Marquez.
Two down, one to go. The last of the flyaways is always the hardest, in many ways. Three races on three consecutive weekends means that riders never have time to heal from even the small injuries they receive each weekend, from minor falls, or the blisters on their hands. Spending many hours cloistered in aircraft flying long distance makes catching colds or flu or other respiratory diseases inevitable. Team members being cooped up together for nearly four weeks means relationships are at best strained, at worst verging on violent.
Then there's the contrast in climate. Even at its best, Phillip Island can be chilly, so traveling from there to the sweltering tropical heat of Malaysia is a physical shock. To step on a plane in the freezing cold, then step off it to be drenched in sweat is tough for people already drained from so much travel and racing. Then to race for 45 minutes in punishing heat and humidity, at a track which is physically very challenging, because of the heavy braking zones around the track. The stress, mental and physical, is enormous.
Perhaps it was that stress that caused the MotoGP series to explode at Sepang last year. Smarting from being beaten into fourth place at Phillip Island by Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo, and Andrea Iannone, Valentino Rossi seized upon the theory apparently put forward by his friend and business partner Alessio 'Uccio' Salucci, that Márquez had decided to conspire against Rossi to hand Jorge Lorenzo the 2015 MotoGP title. Márquez had attempted to accomplish this by beating Lorenzo in Australia. And in the press conference at Sepang, he launched his accusations against the Repsol Honda rider.
Press releases previewing the upcoming Malaysian Grand Prix:
Malaysia the next battleground for Team Estrella Galicia 0,0
Jorge Navarro comes into the penultimate round of the Moto3 World Championship season third in the overall standings, motivated to fight for the runner-up spot. Aron Canet will work towards a strong debut at Sepang.
Is there such a thing as an Alien? The provenance of the term is uncertain, though most people believe that it was coined by Colin Edwards in 2009, after he kept finishing in fifth place behind Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Jorge Lorenzo, and Dani Pedrosa. Whatever he tried, he could not stay with them. "They are riding out of this world," he said.
The term has stuck. Since then, the term Alien has been applied to the top four riders, the only difference being that Marc Márquez has been swapped for Casey Stoner now that the Australian has retired. The reality is that since Jorge Lorenzo entered the class until the start of the 2016 season, the five MotoGP Aliens had accounted for all but two of the 143 MotoGP races held. The two non-Alien wins were by Andrea Dovizioso (Donington 2009) and Ben Spies (Assen 2011). Both of those races came in unusual conditions. The five Aliens dominated the podiums throughout that period as well.
2016 looks like becoming the year the Alien died. Or perhaps more realistically (and less dramatically) the year we had to readjust the concept of a MotoGP Alien. The season was going very much to plan up until Assen, when Jack Miller won an interrupted race in the driving rain. Then in Austria, Andrea Iannone finally did what everyone has been waiting for, won a race with a Ducati. Cal Crutchlow used a drying surface to his advantage to win at Brno, and then Maverick Viñales won at a dry but cold Silverstone. Questions were asked whether Maverick Viñales was the next Alien.
Press releases from the Moto2 & Moto3 teams after the Australian Grand Prix
Moto2 standings after Phillip Island:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after a wet qualifying at Phillip Island:
Frantic fifth pole position of 2016 for Brad Binder
Newly crowned Moto3 World Champion takes pole position at Australian GP in ‘smash and grab’ qualifying session. Bo Bendsneyder claims a positive fourth row.
10/22/2016 - Phillip Island Circuit, Australia