Results and summary of the Moto2 race at Sepang:
2012 Sepang MotoGP Saturday Round Up: MotoGP's Future In The East, Honda's Chatter, And The Chances Of Rain
This year's Malaysian round of the MotoGP series has offered a glimpse of the future, for those with an interest in seeing it. While the series is locked in a series of arguments over the future of the technical regulations, the massive economic problems in its key television markets, and the Spanish domination of the sport in all classes, Sepang pointed the way forward, and that way is definitely east.
It starts with the crowds. Where crowd numbers have been falling almost everywhere at the European rounds, Sepang is seeing record attendances this weekend. Grandstand tickets are selling out fast, and despite the rain, fans are turning up in large numbers. How much those numbers are being inflated by Australians flocking to the circuits they can fly to affordably to see Casey Stoner ride the last few races of his career is uncertain, but that they should be packing the grandstands in Malaysia seems unlikely. There are also plenty of local fans, coming to see riders from the region threaten the top of the timesheets for the first time in history, and not just make up the numbers at the rear.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Sepang:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Sepang:
Takaaki Nakagami has taken advantage of the weather window caused by the late morning rain at Sepang to top the final session of free practice for the Moto2 class. That window was large enough for him to be challenged, the rain only really starting to fall some twenty minutes in to the session, but no one could quite match Nakagami's pace. A lot of people came close, however: Johan Zarco, Scott Redding, Toni Elias and Pol Espargaro were all within a tenth of Nakagami.
2012 Sepang MotoGP Friday Round Up: The Vinales Affair: Ambition, Greed, Incompetence, And A Breath Of Fresh Air
It was a strange day in Malaysia. Part of the strangeness was down to the weather. The familiar pattern of disrupted sessions as the rain fell, but not hard enough to allow the MotoGP riders, in particular, to spend much time on the track in the afternoon. There was a twist, however, a particularly Malaysian one at Sepang: the heavy shower which passed over the track at the start of the afternoon session for MotoGP left part of the circuit soaking, with water a couple of centimeters deep at turns 1 and 2, while the rest of the circuit quickly dried out almost completely. It at least added a little novelty to the disruption, along with the frustration of another wasted practice.
The real strangeness came at the start of the day, however. It took about 10 minutes for observers to notice that Maverick Viñales had not gone out on track and there was suspiciously little activity in the Avintia Blusens garage. Once they noticed, low-level pandemonium broke out: within seconds, a throng of Spanish journalists crowded out of the media center and hastened on their way into the paddock, to find anyone and everyone and learn what they could.
As they drifted back in, and as TV pictures started to appear showing an empty Blusens garage, Viñales walking through the paddock accompanied by his father and the Dorna media officer, and team managers Raul Romero and Ricard Jové gathered in discussions, it was clear that there was something very wrong. When it was revealed what that was - that Viñales had decided to quit the team with immediate effect - it sent a shock wave through the paddock. Riders quitting teams with races left in the championship is unusual; to do it while that rider is second in the title chance and still in with a shot at the championship is unheard of.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia:
Local Malaysian wildcard rider Hafizh Syahrin took advantage of the changeable conditions during FP2 for the Moto2 class at Sepang, going out and setting the fastest time of the session early on, while the track was at its driest. The rain started to fall much more heavily some ten minutes into the session, giving the riders a consistent track, but making it impossible for anyone to match the time of the Malaysian rider, giving Syahrin and his Petronas Raceline Malaysia team a massive boost in front of their home crowd.
In the full wet conditions, Marc Marquez had the pace of the field, the only man to post a lap in the 2'24s after the rain started to fall. Alex de Angelis came close, but suffered a nasty crash when he tried to push on, damaging his bike but walking away relatively unharmed from the crash.
Pol Espargaro was the fastest of the Moto2 men in the first free practice for the Moto2 class, leading the class by two tenths of a second. Bradley Smith took 2nd, the Tech 3 man having found an extra burst of speed during the flyaways, while Marc Marquez ended the session in 3rd. Tito Rabat grabbed 4th, fractionally ahead of Dominique Aegerter and Andrea Iannone, Iannone having refound his mojo after a dismal weekend in Japan.
The Sepang round of MotoGP could see all three championships clinched this weekend, with Jorge Lorenzo, Marc Marquez and Sandro Cortese all closing in on their respective world championships. The job is easiest for Cortese, all the German has to do to become the inaugural Moto3 champion is finish one place behind Maverick Vinales and the title is his. After getting a little too excited at Motegi, Cortese will doubtless be heading to Sepang in a much calmer frame of mind.
Marquez also faces a relatively manageable task, but unlike Cortese, he does not have his fate entirely in his own hands. If Pol Espargaro wins at Sepang, then the earliest Marquez could be crowned champion would be at Phillip Island. If Espargaro does not win, the Marquez is in with a very good chance: should Espargaro finish the race in third or worse, then Marquez only has to finish directly behind him; if Espargaro finishes second, then Marquez has to win. On current form, it would be hard to bet against Marquez, but Sepang was the circuit where the Spaniard was badly injured last year, suffering damage to his eyes which limited his vision and threatened to end his career. It will be interesting to see whether the memory has spooked Marquez, but judging by his performance this year, that seems faintly ridiculous.
Scott Redding and Mika Kallio are to remain in Moto2 with the Marc VDS Racing team for the 2013 season. The team is to also expand into Moto3, adding young Belgian rider and former Red Bull Rookie Livio Loi.
The signing of Redding and Kallio brings to an end a saga over Redding's future which has lasted for several months now. The young British rider had been widely expected to make the move up to MotoGP this season, Redding clearly suffering as a result of his size on board a horsepower-limited Moto2 machine. At first, it looked like Redding would be part of the Ducati Junior team, the Englishman posting impressive times during private testing with Ducati, but the long, drawn-out process of putting that team together saw Redding drop out of the race. Redding was also very close to securing the San Carlo Gresini Honda ride, but the politics between Honda and Dorna over the spec ECU saw him passed over for the ride.
Marc VDS' Moto2 line up almost contained the Frenchman Johann Zarco. A contract had already been signed between the two parties, but was torn up after Zarco's manager took a dislike to someone - unrelated to the team - spotted in the Marc VDS garage at Aragon.
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams ahead of this weekend's race at Sepang:
The FIM today issued a revised version of the 2013 MotoGP calendar. The new calendar is only a minor update to the initial calendar issued on September 21st, with only one real change, the switching of the Sachsenring to a week earlier. That move was forced on the FIM, as Formula One had scheduled the Grand Prix of Germany at the Nurburgring for the same date. Holding an F1 race and a MotoGP race in the same country and on the same date was not a viable situation, and so the Sachsenring race was moved.
The other update to the calendar was not a change, but a confirmation. The Grand Prix of the Americas has been confirmed as taking place on April 21st, at the brand new Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas. That had been widely expected, but could not be confirmed until contracts were signed. The continuing dispute between the Circuit of the Americas and Kevin Schwantz over the rights to organize the Austin round of MotoGP will not affect the scheduling of the race.