How come Valentino Rossi went from zero at Phillip Island to (fallen) hero at Sepang on Sunday?
Sunday was Rossi’s greatest ride in more than two years – 46 races since he defeated a hard-charging Marc Márquez at Barcelona in June 2016. (It was a sign!)
First of all, his speed and consistency may shut up the armchair racers who suggest he is past it. When the bike and the tyres do what he wants them to do, Rossi can be as fast as anyone, even in suffocating 34 degC heat. That is nothing short of a miracle for a 39-year-old lining up on a Grand Prix grid for the 382nd time, with the dolce vita always awaiting him at home, whenever he so chooses.
On Tuesday, Dorna issued a press release together with the Indonesian Tourism Development Company, or ITDC, that brought an Indonesian round of MotoGP one step closer to reality. If the plans come to fruition, MotoGP could be racing on a specially-adapted street circuit on the island of Lombok as early as 2021.
Carmelo Ezpeleta and his son (and MotoGP Sporting Director) Carlos visited Nusa Dua, in the south of Bali, one of Indonesia's favorite destinations for tourists, as guest of the ITDC. While he was there, they hopped across to Lombok, the next island east of Bali, to visit the Mandalika tourist resort on the south coast of Lombok, which is currently under development.
The plan is for a race to be organized on a circuit using the public roads inside the resort. This is the 'street race' which was rumored much earlier in the year, but about which few details had emerged. Safety concerns are much easier to address, as the layout of the tourist resort will feature wide roads and plenty of open spaces, with plenty of room to create gravel traps and run off.
How close is MotoGP at the moment? If you just looked at the championship standings, you might reply, not particularly close. Marc Márquez wrapped up the MotoGP championship after just 16 of the 19 races, with a lead of 102 points. He had won 8 of those 16 races, a strike rate of 50%, and been on the podium another five times as well. On paper, it looks like the kind of blowout which has fans turning off in droves, and races held in front of half-empty grandstands.
But that's not what's happening. The series is as popular as ever, TV ratings are high, crowds are larger than ever before, and social media lights up on every race weekend. Rightly so: the show has been spectacular in 2018. Marc Márquez' championship blowout belies just how close the racing actually is. How? Because there are eight or nine riders who can compete for the podium on any given weekend.
The five races leading up to Sepang bear this out. There have been four different manufacturers and six different riders on the podium, and that is with Jorge Lorenzo missing four of those five races. The podiums are fairly evenly distributed as well: Honda have 6 of the 15 podium places, Ducati have had 4, Suzuki 3 podiums, Yamaha 2 podiums. Honda, Ducati, and Yamaha have all won races.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Michelin after the Malaysian Grand Prix:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the Malaysian Grand Prix:
MotoGP standings after the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang:
Moto2 standings after Sepang:
Moto3 standings after Sepang: