Valentino Rossi seized the top spot in FP3 when he became the only rider to drop into a sub, two-minute laptime at the Sepang circuit Saturday. Rossi's set his 1'59.947 -- the weekend's fastest time by any rider -- with no time left in the third practice. Johann Zarco, who led much of the session, was bumped into second by the Italian's final lap. Dani Pedrosa jumped from 11th into third near the end of practice as riders began switching to the soft-option rear tire in an attempt to ensure a top-10 finish.
Jorge Martin took advantage of a rapidly drying track to take the top time in FP3 Saturday at the Sepang circuit Sunday as riders began to set their fastest times of the weekend. Martin's 2'15.606 put him four-tenths of a second ahead of the number two finisher Juanfran Guevara. Newly crowned World Champion Joan Mir seized third as the day began heating up.
If there is one thing clear from Friday at Sepang, it is that neither Andrea Dovizioso nor Marc Márquez believe the 2017 championship is done. The two men left in the title fight came out punching, chasing fast times just that little bit harder than the rest. Dovizioso topped both morning and afternoon sessions, blatant about his intentions to make a final bid for the championship. Márquez was a little slower in the mixed-but-drying conditions of FP1, but only half a second behind Dovizioso in a wet FP2. Márquez will give as hard as he gets.
The headline times are deceptive, though, as were the conditions. The morning session started with a track that would not dry fast enough – a persistent problem since the track was resurfaced, and an issue with drainage in certain sections of the track – and riders choosing to sit out the first third or so of FP1. Even once the riders took to the track in earnest, times were variable. It was only towards the end where track was dry enough to start to post quick times.
In the dry, Márquez focused on pace, putting in a single long run, while Andrea Dovizioso got on with setup work, ending FP1 at the top of the timesheets, just ahead of Alvaro Bautista. "I’m really happy about the lap time I did this morning," Dovizioso said. "It was quite fast but the conditions were strange. There was not a lot of rubber on the ground so it wasn’t normal. Anyway, this was the condition for the other riders. We did a good lap time. I was first."
News reached us that Kiefer Racing team boss Stefan Kiefer died in his sleep on Thursday night in Malaysia. As a result of his death, the Kiefer Racing team have decided to withdraw from the Sepang round of Moto2 this weekend. Neither Dominique Aegerter nor Tarran Mackenzie will race in Malaysia.
Our thoughts are with Stefan's friends and family, and with the Kiefer Racing team.
The press release issued by the team is below:
KIEFER RACING MOURNS FOR THE LOSS OF STEFAN KIEFER
Alex Marquez appears ready to prove that his recent win in the wet at Motegi was no fluke. On a wet Sepang track with intermittent rainfall, the Spaniard topped the timesheet and ran consistently fast times throughout the second Friday session. Lorenzo Baldasarri (2nd) finished his day just two-hundredths behind the leader with FP1 leader Miguel Oliveira taking third.
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.
The World Superbike championship has moved to address the performance disparities which have seen Kawasaki and Ducati dominate in recent seasons. The Superbike Commission, the rule-making body for the WorldSBK series, today announced a series of measures to ensure greater parity among teams and factories. The measures, which will enter into force in 2018, see rev limits replacing weight penalties and air restrictors as a performance balancing mechanism, and a performance-based concession point system for allowing engine updates during the season.
The changes fall into three main categories: the performance balancing system, a system of concession points, and the price capping of a range of suspension, chassis, and engine parts related to performance. The performance balancing system and the concession points system are aimed at creating more parity between different manufacturers, while the price capping of certain parts is aimed at both limiting costs, and of ensuring that all teams have access to the same parts.
MotoMatters.com, in association with Motor Sport Magazine, is proud to feature the rider insights of 1983 and 1985 500cc world champion Freddie Spencer. Every week after each MotoGP race, Fast Freddie will share what he saw and learned from the race.
In the latest episode of his video blog, Fast Freddie Spencer casts an eye over the events of a thrilling Phillip Island MotoGP race. Spencer shares his memories of riding at the Island, and his abiding memories of his first visit there, and being in the odd situation of testing during the day and then popping down to watch the Penguin Parade after he was done.