Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix
Boris on Sepang
Malaysia, like Phillip Island, invariably serves up an incident-filled racing weekend. It’s probably the heat. And when you factor in that everyone is tired and the championship is decided, interesting things can and do happen.
Marquez high-siding and landing on his face in Qualifying is one such thing.
Marc had an inkling his Honda would not be the fastest bike at Sepang. Maverick was shining, and Fabulous was shining brighter, breaking track records in Practice and Qualifying. So Marc followed Fabulous out and sat on his rear tyre, you know, a bit like they do in Moto3. Then they both went back into the pits, swapped to softer Qualifying hoops, and out they both went again, Marquez slowly shadowing the young Frenchman, who kept peering over his shoulder at the World Champion.
Fabulous must have shrugged, thought, what the Hell, and indifferent to the dropping temperatures in his tyres, gassed it on down the back straight, passing Petrucci. Marc followed, also passing Petrucci, and as they came into the bend, the change of direction undid the Spaniard, who did an excellent impression of an old 500cc two-stroke highside from the Bad Old Days. Fabio sailed on. Marquez sailed onto his face.
Happily, he was unhurt, but shaken, and while he walked tall back into his pits, the second he thought the cameras were off him he crumpled in pain.
The Petronas sponsors must have been overjoyed. Not with Marc’s highside, but with the fact both their riders were on the front row, Fabulous in first and Morbidelli in second. Vinales separated them. So it was all Yamaha. Even Rossi had managed the end of the second row, with Cal and Jack Miller in front. Marquez? Well, he was all the way back in eleventh behind Dovi. Zarco was ahead of them both – a fact not lost on anyone in the paddock, least of all Jorge Lorenzo, Alberto Puig and HRC.
But it looked like Petronas and indeed, Yamaha, had it in the bag.
Except not so much when the lights went out.
In the storm that arrived at Turn One, Miller looked to be in charge, but Vinales was leading by the end of the lap. More impressively, Marquez went from eleventh to second in one lap and didn’t knock anyone into the weeds.
From then on Vinales was in charge, managing his tyres and the lead with consummate perfection.
Behind him, all sorts of exciting things were happening as the field sorted itself out.
Rins and Mir decided to use their bikes as ramming tools. Rins belted Miller so hard from behind, bits of his Suzuki were falling off for the next four corners. Maybe he was getting Jack back for calling him a “fucking idiot” earlier in the weekend.
Mir took Zarco out a few laps from the end and earned himself a long-lap penalty. Zarco must have been shattered. He was catching a fading Miller – who had yet again elected to go out on soft tyres despite this choice not working out very well in the last few races – when Mir rode into Zarco.
The Petronas boys were also struggling. They had topped all the Practice sessions, but the race was proving hard work. Morbidelli kept his team-mate at bay and took out sixth, while Fabulous was visibly pissed at his performance and seventh place.
As Marquez tried to keep Vinales in sight up the front, Dovi had wedged himself into third and was being pursued by Rossi, who set the lap record for the fastest race lap in his efforts to catch his fellow Italian. But it was not to be, and The Doctor was relegated to fourth. I died a little more inside. Jesus, Dovi, would it have killed you to let your mate stand on the podium at least once this year? He would have done it for you.
Cal Cruthlow crashed again, clearly making up for his lack of gravel-time in the last race. He was joined by Iannone and the hapless aforementioned Zarco. And this is why Lorenzo managed to get himself into the points this round. Jorge was 14th, ahead of perennial backmarkers, Syahrin and Abraham.
Still, being 34 seconds behind the winner looks a bit better than being 66 seconds behind the winner, huh, Jorge? I also noticed he looked to fall asleep on the grid before the race and almost toppled from his bike. Or maybe he just got light-headed with the intense focus he’s capable of.
I’m still hearing his retirement will be announced very soon. Puig is spending too much time leering at Zarco in his pit garage for there to be much doubt where all this will end up. Look for Nakagami to take Lorenzo’s place, and for Zarco to throw his leg over Nakagami’s satellite Honda in 2020.
There will be very few real satellite bikes next season. Yamaha announced all four of their riders will be on A-spec bikes in 2020. And I believe this to be the case at Honda and Ducati. Suzuki will struggle next year because it is still fielding only two bikes. And what it needs is ten more horsies on their machines and maybe faster riders. It might be time for Suzuki to speak to Lorenzo.
Asparagus A’s only claim to fame this weekend was running down a photographer in pit-lane. His team-mate, Oliveira, tried four laps of practice before limping off to sit out the race and nurse the injuries he exacerbated at Phillip Island. Likewise, Tits Rabbit sat out Sepang with his injured hands immersed in buckets of ice.
Oliveira will also sit out the Valencia finale following surgery on his shoulder. Oliveira will be replaced by aggressive young Spaniard Iker Lecuona who will make his MotoGP debut with the team that he recently signed to race the 2020 MotoGP season with.
Petrucci once again had me wondering why Ducati signed him instead of Miller, who is trying his heart out. Danilo put in a lot of effort before his signing, then when the ink was dry, just stopped doing much of anything except riding around with Crutchlow. He’s probably hoping his impending weight-loss and subsequent return to form in 2020 may keep Ducati’s knives from being plunged into him, but we shall see. I’m thinking both him and Dovi are headed for the door next year.
And so to the last round in Valencia.
As you may have noticed, not many of the racers have stopped racing. It’s what racers do. The championship may have been decided, but the racing hasn’t stopped.
And I’m sure Valencia will be just as fascinating as the previous rounds.
Malaysian MotoGP Results / Standings
|DNF||Johann ZARCO||Honda||4 Laps|
|DNF||Cal CRUTCHLOW||Honda||6 Laps|
|DNF||Andrea IANNONE||Aprilia||9 Laps|