The exciting penultimate MotoGP race in Malaysia.
The teams and riders flew north from Australia for the next round of this years exciting MotoGP championship.
As the teams arrived at Sepang International Circuit. It was hot and sultry when they set up. Malaysia has a changeable weather at this time of year.
This was a must win weekend for the Factory Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso to keep his hopes of the championship alive and the Italian kept his cool to take his sixth win of the season - and take the Championship battle to the last race in Spain.
Friday the riders went out in free practice, in the dry and Andrea Dovizioso was showing his intent right from the start. A surprise came in the way of Alvaro Bautista who finished second and Frenchman Johann Zarco in third. Free practice 2 in the wet; again it was Andrea Dovizioso who topped the time sheets. Ahead of Marc Márquez, Jorge Lorenzo and Maverick Viñales. Saturday it was dry all day and fastest was Italian Valentino Rossi followed by Johann Zarco, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso.
Qualifying one saw Álex Rins and Pol Espargaró go threw to Q2.
It was another fast and furious session. Valentino Rossi was on top for the first 10 minutes then all change! Johann Zarco took over the top spot and Marc Márquez determined to take pole pushed over the limit and crashed out. Andrea Dovizioso set the fastest time with minutes to go. Then Dani Pedrosa riding the Factory Repsol Honda, set the quickest time in the last few seconds with a time of 1'59. 212, Johann Zarco ahead of Andrea Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi.
Qualifying 2 Results.
Sepang, Saturday, October 28, 2017
Sunday Thrilling Race Day
Sunday action started with free practice four and Marc Márquez took top spot with Andrea Dovizioso on his heels, with Suzuki's Álex Rins and Johann Zarco next up.
After a dry start to the day at the Circuit, a cloud burst before the race, meant a wet race. The riders lined up on the grid, you could feel the tension rising. Danilo Petrucci of the Octo Pramac Ducati Racing team, had to abandon his Ducati with a technical problem with his number one bike, on the way to the grid, and had to start from pit lane on his second bike. The lights came on, then off, the race was go!
The Race Is ON!
It was Hondas Marquez who sped away from the lights to take the lead into turn 1 from the third row, but the current World Champion went wide pushing out Lorenzo - allowing Johann Zarco to take the lead. Then the Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider took off into the distance, and Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo took second and chased after Zarco. Marquez relegated to third, with Andrea Dovizioso dropping back to fifth but soon the Italian caught Dani Pedrosa on the Factory Honda, he got by him and chased after Marquez and the leaders.
Johann Zarco opened up a two-second lead over Lorenzo. After a couple of attempts, Marquez was over taken by Dovizioso after two laps, and the Honda star faded away from the lead fight. The Ducati pair, Lorenzo and Dovizioso closed in on leader Zarco. His lead began to diminish, both Ducati's were able to pass the flying Frenchman at half race distance. It seemed Marquez would have the pace to take third from Zarco, but the reigning Champion couldn't make up the gap.
At the front, Lorenzo leading his team mate, as the two red machines streaked away with Dovizioso in pursuit. Slicing through the rain to catch up with his team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, but then Lorenzo had a front end slide at Turn 15 with his foot off the foot peg. Dovi saw his chance to pass him with three and a half laps to go. Counting down the last laps as the end of the race neared. Lorenzo, still waiting for his first Ducati win, managed to close the gap to seven tenths over the line, with Zarco getting third.
Dovizioso came through to repeat his 2016 victory in Malaysia. He finished seven tenths ahead of the Majorcan, Lorenzo, at the flag for a 1-2 for Ducati and over 17 seconds in front of his arch rival, Marc Márquez on his Repsol Honda, he crossed the line in fourth. Johann Zarco on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha completed the podium, claiming the title of top Independent Team rider. Dani Pedrosa, the pole setter, completing the top five after a more promising showing in the wet for the former winner at the venue in similar conditions.
Danilo Petrucci put in a superb ride, once again in the wet, and rode a spirited race passing the lower placed riders and he came through the field to get sixth over the line taking 15 places in the process.
Valentino Rossi on his Factory Movistar Yamaha fought his way through to finish close behind his fellow countryman, at the end of the race to finish seventh, only four tenths behind Petrucci, and ahead of Jack Miller on his Marc VDS Honda, in eighth. Maverick Viñales had a hard race for ninth, with Factory KTM rider, Spain's Pol Espargaró. He gave KTM a consecutive top ten finish after another impressive race. Britons Bradley Smith and Scott Redding had a good battle for sixth in the opening laps of the race, before dropping back. Spanish Alvaro Bautista, Pull&Bear Ducati Aspar Team took 11th, Brits Bradley Smith 12th, riding the Red Bull KTM, and Scott Redding 13th, Octo Pramac Ducati, and Hector Barbera, Reale Avintia Ducati, and Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda, completed the points scorers in 14th and 15th respectively.
Tech 3 Yamaha replacement rider, Dutch WSB Yamaha star, Michael van der Mark finished a credible 16th in his MotoGP debut. Both Suzuki riders started strongly before the conditions took their toll, Andrea Iannone could only manage17th, while team mate, Álex Rins crashed out in the tricky track conditions.
Tito Rabat, Marc VDS Honda, was the last finisher in 18th. Factory Aprilia rider, Britain's Sam Lowes came off twice, and Karel Abraham and Loris Baz both fallers on the slippery track surface.
SHELL MALAYSIA MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX
MotoGP Race Result
Sepang, Sunday, October 29, 2017
Fastest Lap: Lap: 13 Andrea Dovizioso 2'13. 084 149. 9 Km/h
MotoGP World Standing 2017 after the Malaysian MotoGP
Qualifying, Race Result and Championship tables, of the official MotoGP website: www.motogp.com
Dovizioso still holds a mathematical chance of winning the title at Valencia in Spain in November. Marquez leads by 21 points, so it's a long shot for Dovizioso. He has to win and Marquez to finish 12th or below ... but never, say never.
It's now all or nothing for the two title challengers and the Championship comes back to Europe for the final showdown at Valencia.
Post race Rider interviews
We start with race winner, Andrea Dovizioso, the 31-year-old Factory Ducati Italian rider, who is now only 21 points behind Mark Marquez with one race to go, he told me
"We did everything perfect and it wasn't easy, so I am so happy about that to show to everybody that with our work, we can really be competitive in this difficult track in the dry and wet.
"It's very difficult to be strong and fast and to be on top in every practice in both conditions, so [I am] sad for the work of the team because we improve in the dry practice by practice, we have a good pace for the race and we were able to fight for the victory.
"On the wet we knew our bike worked very well. The grip was so low in the race and worse than the practice, maybe because there was a lot of rubber on the ground after all the practice and races of Moto2 and Moto3. "
Dovizioso said he was happy to sit behind Marquez in fourth place on the opening laps until he developed a feel for the conditions before making his move.
"At the beginning I took time to become smooth again because I wasn't so comfortable and confident like in the practice, "
"Fortunately nobody pushed me from the back and I take time to try to understand and see my positive points and if I could improve my negative points. I was able to catch Jorge and today he was really fast, so I had to be really concentrated to stay with him.
"I didn't expect to be that competitive this weekend and many weekends this year, nobody expected us to be there, so we have to keep thinking positive like before we came here,
"We will try to be fast and after that we can think about strategy, but we can't make a strategy - we just have to win. We know Valencia is not the best track and Marc is really strong but this year anything can happen during the weekend and you never know about the weather. "
Next I caught up with Factory Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi he told me this
"We were a little bit unlucky with the weather because I think that on the dry we could have been competitive. We wanted to do a good race because we arrived here fresh from a podium on Phillip Island and it's good to try to stay at the top, but it rained. Unfortunately, today we also weren't strong enough with this bike on the wet. We had a lot of problems and I was struggling for more or less three quarters of the race. We need to understand the situation and try to improve and that's just the way it is. We'll see what happens in Valencia. It's another important race and a difficult track, but we'll see. We'll try to be competitive".
Then I had a word with second place man, the Factory Ducati rider, Jorge Lorenzo
"It was a great race that showed the progress we made throughout the weekend. I was really at ease on the bike, and even though I'd have preferred a dry race, when I saw it was raining I changed my mentality and tried to keep focussed, in order to avoid a mistake like Misano. I pushed hard but in the last few laps I was in a bit of crisis with the tyres, especially the front, and had a few scary moments in some corners. It wasn't the right time to do anything stupid and when I almost crashed at Turn 15 and Andrea passed me I realized that I wasn't going to be able to fight for the win. I know exactly how important a world title is for Ducati, Dovizioso has had a fantastic season and deserves to fight for the championship right down to the last race. In this weekend Andrea has always been faster and I'm pleased for the team for this first 1-2 win of the season, because it means we're working really well. "
I saw third place man, Johann Zarco, the Monster Tech3 Yamaha rider
"It was a great race and I am happy to be on the podium again. I was a bit worried about riding in the wet because when it rained on Friday, I was not fast and overall, Marquez and Dovizioso were pretty quick. Today I used the soft tyre in order to be safe but also to get some feeling and the lap times during the race were not amazing, yet, they were fast enough to lead and I opened up a gap. It was good to start the GP in this way, and even though I felt that I couldn't push anymore, I did enough to stay first. Then, when the two Ducati riders overtook me, I thought about fighting with them. Eventually, I lost too much in acceleration so I had to push a lot on the brakes. Yet, it was too risky and I lost the rear twice. I wasn't sure about what to do, however, I expected the track to dry a bit, and then I wanted to attempt to catch them, but I was limited. On the last three laps, I ran alone in third, so I decided to stay focused and the result was already pretty good so I chose to be safe and enjoy it!"
Then I talked with Factory Honda rider, Marc Márquez he told me
"Today the race was the most difficult one we could have had for the Championship because we had rain conditions and the track was extremely slippery. Anyway, I got a good start, and I tried to push at the beginning because I didn't want to be stuck in the middle of the group. Then I tried to find the feeling and the pace but I saw that both the Ducati's were very fast, so I decided to not take too many risks, to be calm, and to get good points for the Championship. I thought about trying to get Zarco but the risk was too big just to have an advantage of 24 points instead of 21. This wasn't the race to win the Title but rather one to get closer to it. I'm happy because after a difficult weekend, at a track were we always struggle, we still managed to finish fourth. Of course now we need to keep focused, to train well this week, and to work to be at 100% on Sunday in Valencia without relaxing too much with the advantage we have. Today we won the Constructor Title, and that's a first step!"
I found Dani Pedrosa Factory Honda racer and the pole man, he told me
"Overall I'm happy with the result, and I'd like to thank my team for giving me a bike that allowed me to be competitive. Of course after earning the pole yesterday, the expectations would have been high if the conditions were dry, and when I saw the rain starting to fall I thought we might go from first to last. But in the end we changed the setting, trying something we had never used before in an effort to get more rear grip, and it worked! That and the choice of the soft rear tyre gave me confidence. The feeling still wasn't perfect because the tyre was spinning on the straights, but at least it gave me edge grip and I was able to lean the bike. We've learned something that I think may also be helpful for the technicians in the future, so we can be satisfied. Today Honda won the Constructor Championship, and that's important. It's another title for the Company, and I'm happy about that. "
After that, I got to talk to Danilo Petrucci, the Octo Pramac Ducati ace, he said to me
"I'm happy with this 6th place also because it was a difficult race. The bike had a problem and I was forced to start from last place. The start was very good but in the early laps I struggled a lot. I couldn't get a lot of traction during the race but I pushed hard to get the best result. If I have to be honest, though, I think we have missed an opportunity to fight for another podium".
Finally I spoke with Dutchman, Michael van der Mark, who was brought in to replace Jonas Folger, to ride his Monster Tech3 Yamaha he was pleased to tell me
"I am really happy with today's result, even though it was typical Malaysia and just before the race commenced, it rained again! The team and I changed the bike considerably compared to Friday when it was wet and we went softer on the rear. I had quite a good start, and the first half of the GP went very positively as I followed the guys in front of me and I fought with a lot of riders. I'm pleased with my performance, even if I wasn't completely happy with the bike, but it was only my second time on the YZR-M1 in the wet. In my eyes, to fight for the points and follow Maverick was really amazing. When it dried a little bit, I struggled slightly more than him, yet, I could run a similar pace. I think I lacked a bit of confidence with the turning of the bike, otherwise, I may have been able to stay with the big group in front of me. I hoped to catch them with Maverick, but I also wanted to finish the race, which I did. Overall, I enjoyed the weekend a lot and my first experience with the YZR-M1 was just amazing. "
2017 Moto2 World Championship.
Another World Championship was decided in Malaysia, Morbidelli was crowned the new Moto2 World Champion.
Earlier in the day it was announced that title rival Thomas Lüthi had been declared unfit to race, so Morbidelli's 29 point advantage going into the Malaysian GP was enough to secure the crown.
- Roland Potter