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.

MotoGP Sepang QP Marquez Crash
Marc Marquez

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.

MotoGP Sepang QP Marquez Crash
Marc Marquez launched off his Honda during qualifying

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.

MotoGP Rnd Malaysia Start
Sepang MotoGP

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.

MotoGP Rnd Malaysia Miller Marquez Dovi
Sepang MotoGP

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.

MotoGP Rnd Malaysia Miller Zarco Mir Petrucci
Jack Miller

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.

MotoGP Rnd Malaysia Zarco Mir Petrucci
Sepang MotoGP – Petrucci and Mir crashed while ultimately Zarco crashed out

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.

MotoGP Sepang QP Morbidelli Zarco Rossi
Franco Morbidelli

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.

MotoGP Rnd Malaysia Erly Vinales
Sepang MotoGP

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.

MotoGP Rnd Malaysia Dovizioso Rossi
Sepang MotoGP

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.

MotoGP Rnd Malaysia Kallio Lorenzo
Jorge Lorenzo chasing Mika Kallio

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.

MotoGP Motegi Honda Lorenzo Puig
Lorenzo on the grid with the evil Puig (Motegi)

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.

MotoGP Australia Phillip Island RbMotoLens MotGP Jorge Lorenzo
Jorge 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. 

MotoGP Rnd Silverstone QP Petrucci
Danilo Petrucci

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.

MotoGP Rnd Malaysia Rossi
Valentino Rossi

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.

MotoGP Rnd Malaysia Zarco Pack
Malysian GP

Malaysian MotoGP Results / Standings

PosRiderBikeTime/Gap
1Maverick VIÑALESYamaha40m14.632
2Marc MARQUEZHonda+3.059
3Andrea DOVIZIOSODucati+5.611
4Valentino ROSSIYamaha+5.965
5Alex RINSSuzuki+6.350
6Franco MORBIDELLIYamaha+9.993
7Fabio QUARTARAROYamaha+12.864
8Jack MILLERDucati+17.252
9Danilo PETRUCCIDucati+19.773
10Joan MIRSuzuki+22.854
11Pol ESPARGAROKTM+24.821
12Francesco BAGNAIADucati+30.251
13Aleix ESPARGAROAprilia+30.447
14Jorge LORENZOHonda+34.215
15Mika KALLIOKTM+34.461
16Hafizh SYAHRINKTM+44.319
17Karel ABRAHAMDucati+47.343
Not Classified
DNFJohann ZARCOHonda4 Laps
DNFCal CRUTCHLOWHonda6 Laps
DNFAndrea IANNONEAprilia9 Laps
PosRiderBikeTotal
1Marc MARQUEZHonda395
2Andrea DOVIZIOSODucati256
3Maverick VIÑALESYamaha201
4Alex RINSSuzuki194
5Danilo PETRUCCIDucati176
6Fabio QUARTARAROYamaha172
7Valentino ROSSIYamaha166
8Jack MILLERDucati149
9Cal CRUTCHLOWHonda133
10Franco MORBIDELLIYamaha115
11Pol ESPARGAROKTM94
12Joan MIRSuzuki83
13Takaaki NAKAGAMIHonda74
14Aleix ESPARGAROAprilia56
15Francesco BAGNAIADucati54
16Andrea IANNONEAprilia43
17Miguel OLIVEIRAKTM33
18Johann ZARCOHonda30
19Jorge LORENZOHonda25
20Tito RABATDucati18
21Stefan BRADLHonda16
22Michele PIRRODucati9
23Hafizh SYAHRINKTM8
24Sylvain GUINTOLISuzuki7
25Karel ABRAHAMDucati7
26Mika KALLIOKTM3
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Boris Mihailovic
Boris is a writer who has contributed to many magazines and websites over the years, edited a couple of those things as well, and written a few books. But his most important contribution is pissing people off. He feels this is his calling in life and something he takes seriously. He also enjoys whiskey, whisky and the way girls dance on tables. And riding motorcycles. He's pretty keen on that, too.