MotoGP 2011 – Round 17 – Sepang
Sweltering Sepang welcomes 2011 Champion Stoner
After a dream weekend at his home race at Phillip Island in which a ninth victory of the year sealed him the 2011 title, MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner arrives at the Sepang International Circuit for Round 17 of the season satisfied that his first campaign with the Repsol Honda team has been a resounding success.
The Australian is set to make his 100th premier class GP start this weekend, and despite having secured his second MotoGP title with two rounds remaining will be just as hungry to continue his phenomenal form in 2011. On the podium at every round except one this year (Round 2 at Jerez), Stoner has not been off the rostrum for the last 14 races and will be out to deliver Honda their first win of the 800cc era at Sepang – a track at which the 26 year-old himself has won in the 125cc, 250cc and premier classes.
Jorge Lorenzo was a notable absentee from the starting grid in Australia and the deposed World Champion will also miss this weekend’s race as well. A nasty finger injury picked up in a Sunday morning warm-up crash at Phillip Island ruled the Yamaha Factory Racing rider out of the race, and following surgery he will not be able to compete in Malaysia either.
Lorenzo’s position as runner-up looks to be almost secured despite his inability to ride, although third-placed Andrea Dovizioso could still mathematically beat him to second in the final standings. The Italian finished on the podium in Australia as he pushes hard in his final races with Repsol Honda before a switch of teams in 2012, and he remains four points ahead of team-mate Dani Pedrosa in the duo’s battle for positions in the factory outfit’s pecking order.
Yamaha’s Ben Spies missed last Sunday’s race in Australia after taking a heavy blow to the head in a crash in qualifying, but expects to be fit to ride at a track on which he finished fourth in his rookie season last year. The American remains on course for a top-five Championship finish in his first season on the factory YZR-M1.
Thanks to his second podium of the year in Australia, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli drew level on points with Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) in the Championship and is still well able to challenge Spies for fifth. For Rossi the Phillip Island weekend could not have finished in more disappointing fashion as the Italian crashed out for a second successive race, as his woes on the Desmosedici continued. The nine times World Champion has taken nine podiums from his 11 previous premier class visits to Sepang, and his last MotoGP victory came in last year’s Malaysian GP.
On the other side of the Ducati Team garage Nicky Hayden continues his search for a second podium of the season at a track he is yet to step onto the rostrum, but where he has finished in fourth position on five previous occasions. A solid top-five ride in Australia will have boosted Colin Edwards on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 as the American sees out his final two races with Hervé Poncharal’s team before a switch next season, and Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) appears set to achieve a top-ten finish this season after it was announced in Australia that the Japanese rider will bid farewell for now to the MotoGP World Championship at the conclusion of the campaign.
Mapfre Aspar rider Héctor Barberá is working hard to be fit to ride in Malaysia following surgery on the fractured collarbone he suffered in Japan just over two weeks ago, and John Hopkins will accompany Álvaro Bautista on the Rizla Suzuki GSV-R as a wildcard at the circuit where the Spaniard scored his equal best premier class result of fifth last year.
The Moto2 class remains the most finely balanced of the three World Championship classes as just three points separate title rivals Stefan Bradl and Marc Márquez going into this weekend’s penultimate round.
The pair both finished on the podium on Sunday in Australia, Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) placing second behind race winner Alex de Angelis after a last-lap scare in which he nearly crashed, and Márquez (Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol) in third after mounting a stirring fight through the field having started from last position on the grid due to a qualifying penalty.
The title could be decided this weekend if Bradl were to win and Márquez scored less than three points, but such an eventuality is highly unlikely and this title scrap is poised to go down to the final round in Valencia which follows a fortnight after Sepang. Both riders rode impressive races here in Malaysia last year, Bradl coming from 22nd on the grid to finish seventh in the Moto2 race whilst Márquez won the 125cc race from pole on his way to the title.
With all eyes focused on the thrilling battle at the very top, a no-less engrossing contest plays out further down the field. With his first win of the season, in Australia, De Angelis (JiR Moto2) closed the gap to third-placed Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) to just eight points and the two are certain to fight tooth and nail to the bitter end for a top-three finish.
Similarly, fifth spot in the standings remains wide open with just six points spread across Simone Corsi (Ioda Racing Project), Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Paddock Moto2) and rookie Bradley Smith (Tech 3), with Yuki Takahashi (Gresini Racing) a distant eighth but closely pursued by Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX). Aleix Espargaró (Pons HP 40) currently completes the top ten, but has Swiss rider Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP) close on his heels.
There will be two wildcard riders added to the Moto2 field this weekend, with Malaysians Zamri Baba and Hafizh Syahrin on Moriwaki machinery for Petronas Malaysia.
After a season-long battle the race for the last-ever 125cc title could finally be decided this weekend at Sepang. With the introduction of the four-stroke Moto3 category which will replace the current two-stroke machinery in 2012, the name of this year’s 125 Champion will go down in history as another chapter closes in the annals of the World Championship.
Spaniard Nico Terol is in prime position for the honour and the Bankia Aspar rider could seal the crown this weekend. His only remaining rival for the title, Frenchman Johann Zarco, currently sits 25 points behind in the standings with two rounds remaining, and if Terol finishes this weekend’s race in front of the Avant-AirAsia-Ajo rider he will be crowned Champion. Even if both riders failed to finish the race, Terol would still take the title by virtue of his superior race win count this season. However, Zarco will not make life easy for Terol, as he has refused to do throughout the year.
Aside from the title, Terol could also pass the milestone of 1000 career points in the 125cc class, an achievement which only five other riders have managed.
While the two concentrate on the title, Sandro Cortese (Intact Racing Team Germany) will endeavour to consolidate third position in the standings which he took with victory last time out in Australia. The German rider, who before this season had never won a GP but now has two victories to his name, took Aprilia’s 14th win of the season in the 125cc class, equalling the record which is already held by the Italian manufacturer and which was previously set in 2007 and 2009.
Rookie Maverick Viñales (Blusens by Paris Hilton Racing) is almost guaranteed fourth position in what has already been a superb debut season in the World Championship, but the Spaniard can still overhaul Cortese for third as just seven points separate the pair with two races remaining.
The competition for fifth spot remains open and will be decided between Héctor Faubel (Bankia Aspar), Efrén Vázquez (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) and Jonas Folger (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport), although Luis Salom (RW Racing GP) could mathematically still enter the fray, a scenario which is unlikely however due to his 33-point deficit to Folger. The Spaniard has had a solid season in the World Championship, underlined by a second podium of his campaign – and career – in Australia.
Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Avant-AirAsia-Ajo) will be hopeful of an impressive home race, and will be accompanied on the track by another Malaysian rider, wildcard entry Muhamad Farid Badrul Hisham who will ride a Derbi machine under the AirAsia SLC EVO banner.
The Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix takes place from October 21st-23rd and gets underway at 9.15am local time on Friday, when the 125cc class takes to the track for the opening free practice session.
– Repsol HRC Preview
Marc Márquez will keep fighting for the Moto2 World Championship, a title Casey Stoner already secured in MotoGP. Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso will continue their duel for the third place.
Almost without time to celebrate the 2011 World Champion title, Casey Stoner and his team mates of the Repsol Honda Team, Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso, will face this weekend the second-to-last round of the calendar, the Malaysian Grand Prix. The Repsol rider will try to add a new victory and break records in the most demanding circuit of the season due to the extreme heat and humidity. Stoner will try to set his twelfth pole position, while Pedrosa and Dovizioso will fight for the third place in the overall standings. In Moto2, Marc Márquez is only three points away from the lead, when there are still 50 up for grabs.
The new MotoGP World Champion, Casey Stoner, arrives in Malaysia with his homework done, but with new challenges ahead. In Sepang, the Australian rider will have the opportunity to equal two records, his own of the most victories in one year —10 in 2007— and the record of most poles achieved in one season —12 for Mick Doohan in 1997 in 500cc and for Marc Márquez in 2010 in 125cc—. This will be Stoner’s 100 Grand Prix in MotoGP, and he visits a track were he has won in all categories.
His team mate, Dani Pedrosa, only needs to achieved one victory in MotoGP in Sepang to equal his Australian team mate. The Spanish rider, who did not take part in the Malaysian race in 2010 due to an injury, will try to recover from the weekend he had in Phillip Island, where he was fourth and lost 3 points to Andrea Dovizioso —third in the Championship—. The Italian rider of the Repsol Honda Team was in Phillip Island again on the podium. With this third place, Andrea is just one point away from match his best MotoGP season. The Sepang circuit, the second longest of the World Championship with 5.548 metres, is a pending subject for the Italian rider, who saw the win escape from his hands last year.
Nothing is impossible for Marc Márquez and his Moto2. After recovering 35 positions in Australia to finish on the podium, the Repsol rider arrives to a circuit he already conquered last year in the small category. This has been a dream season for the young rider from Cervera who, two races from the end of the Championship, depends only on himself to get the title of World Champion in his first year in Moto2. He is second in the overall standings three points behind the leader, German Stefan Bradl, and has finish on the podium nine consecutive times. The Sepang track will be the next chance for Marc Márquez to keep being the protagonist of a year that will enter the motorcycling history.
Dani Pedrosa – “We now have a couple of days to rest and recover from the race in Australia and I’m looking forward to arriving in Malaysia. Sepang is a circuit I like and where we have had good results in the past. I won in 125cc and 250cc, but not yet in MotoGP and this is a very good motivation for me.
The winter test in Sepang was good and we have some interesting data to start working with. I really want to do two very good races and finish the season the best way possible”.
Andrea Dovizioso – “Malaysia is one of my favourite tracks, so I really want to get there and push 100% to try to win this race. We arrive very motivated after the race we had in Australia, a circuit which has always been difficult for me.
The last two races are very important; I will fight to retain third position in the Championship even though I know Dani [Pedrosa] and some other riders will be also hard to beat”.
Casey Stoner – “After clinching the title in the last race at Phillip Island we go to Malaysia with a lot less pressure and we can just look forward to the race. It’s disappointing to hear that Jorge [Lorenzo] is unlikely to be there, we had hoped that his recovery from the operation would mean he could race there but we’ll miss him there again. After pre-season testing in Sepang we proved to be competitive so we will arrive there positive and look to enjoy the weekend. We’re also testing the 1000cc bike on Monday after the race, with the Championship now wrapped up, we can concentrate on the development of next years machine, so I’m also looking forward to that”.
Marc Márquez – “After that intensive weekend we start over again in Malaysia. With the 125cc, Sepang went very well, so I hope that I can have fun also with the Moto2. It is a Grand Prix where you need to be very well prepared physically and although I still have some bruises, I hope I will be at 100%. The physical preparation is good, so during the practice and the race it will be important to be careful with hydration. The last sector has very long straights, so it will also very important to have a very good engine set-up. Another thing to take into account are the sudden and frequent rains, that can change the conditions of the track in a moment”.
– Ducati Preview
The Ducati Team left Australia Monday, and after a 24 hour break, its members are ready to get back to work on the GP11.1 for the Malaysian GP. Sepang is one of the widest tracks on the calendar, reaching a width of 16 metres in parts, and the asphalt temperature is often very high due to the tropical climate.
The layout is varied, with a little of everything: two spots where riders reach sixth gear, but others that are technical and taken in first. Some corners are negotiated at high speed, and in others the bike is nearly stopped.
Since its MotoGP debut, the Ducati Team has achieved three wins and one additional podium at Sepang. Valentino Rossi, who counts the track among his favourites, has six wins and three additional podiums, while Nicky Hayden has never finished in the top three but has always been very fast, with five fourth-place finishes in his career, along with one fifth and a sixth.
VALENTINO ROSSI, Ducati Team
“I like the Sepang circuit a lot, although the weather conditions are always extreme. We didn’t have much good luck in Australia, and we also had to work harder than expected on the bike’s setup. We hope to do better here in Malaysia starting on Friday. Anyway, we’ll also be able to verify where we are compared to the tests that we did here last year. We tested many days at Sepang, and it will be interesting to compare things now with what we had then.”
NICKY HAYDEN, Ducati Team
“The conditions in Malaysia are typically hot and steamy, very different from what we had at Phillip Island on Sunday. The Sepang circuit has a good mix of everything, so you need the bike to do everything well. There are some long straightaways where you need a fast bike that brakes well, along with some fast corners, like Turns 5 and 6 and a section in the back. On the other hand, there are also some slow little hairpins, so it’s a good mix of everything that really challenges a rider and bike. It will be interesting to get back on this track after spending a lot of time here in February. The bike has changed a lot, so we’ll see what kind of progress we’ve actually made.”
VITTORIANO GUARESCHI, Team Manager
“Here in Malaysia, we’ll continue working on the GP11.1, both for the race and in order to gather information for our work program with an eye toward 2012. The conditions will be opposite to those in Australia. It’s very challenging from a physical point of view, both for the riders and for the team, which is working extremely hard on many fronts in this final part of the season. The Desmosedici that will take to the track on Friday is different from the one we used in the winter tests, and this event will let us make some interesting comparisons with the data that we collect.”
– Bridgestone Preview
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Hard, Ex Hard. Rear: Medium, Hard
The Malaysian Grand Prix, held at the Sepang International Circuit on 23 October, is the penultimate race of the season and the final long-haul event of the year, coming the week after the Australian round.
Sepang is the second longest circuit on the calendar, after Silverstone, and is characterised by two long and fast straights each followed by tight and slow hairpins, and its tropical climate which can switch from monsoon rains to heat of over 50 degrees Celsius and oppressive humidity.
The main challenges from a tyre perspective come from the straight-line speed, the temperature, and the hard braking for the hairpins. Tyre compound options are unchanged from last year, and Sepang is one of only four circuits on the calendar at which asymmetric rear slicks aren’t required. Hard and Extra Hard compound front slicks are required to provide sufficient durability in the heat and stability under braking as riders decelerate from over 300 km/h to around just 80km/h for the hairpins, turns one and fifteen. Only two compound options of front slick are available in Malaysia because a third soft emergency spec is unnecessary and unsuitable as braking stability would be compromised too much.
The rear tyres are available in Medium and Hard compound as edge-grip and shoulder durability through the longer corners such as turn three and accelerating out of the hairpins are important. With the ambient being so high, warm-up performance is less of a consideration because as it is naturally good. Both tyres need a strong centre section though because of the high speed and track temperature.
Asymmetric rear slicks are not necessary at Sepang. Although there are ten right-hand corners and five lefts, the temperature generated in either shoulder of the rear tyres is very similar therefore asymmetric rear slicks would be of no significant performance or safety advantage.
The 2009 title was sealed by Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi in Malaysia, as was the 2010 crown by teammate Jorge Lorenzo who took his first premier class crown. This year Casey Stoner arrives as the newly-crowned World Champion, taking the title as he did last weekend in Australia.
Hiroshi Yamada – Manager, Bridgestone Motorsport Department
“The title may have been decided last time out but there’s still lots to play for, particularly the fight for third position in the championship, so we can expect more tooth-and-nail battles in the heat of Malaysia. I’m sorry to see that Jorge won’t race in Malaysia either after his injury in Australia, and I wish him a full and speedy recovery. It’s always a punishing event for everyone because of that and the humidity, with the ever-present chance of tropical rains thrown in, but one I’m looking forward to as it’s the final overseas race as the season nears its conclusion.”
Hirohide Hamashima – Assistant to Director, Motorsport Tyre Development Division
“Sepang features a mix of high speed corners, long straights and heavy braking for tight hairpins so it is a tough challenge for our tyres and for the riders, especially when combined with such high temperature and humidity. Characterised by its two long straights and the high track temperature which is often above 50 degrees Celsius, it is one of the fastest circuits of the season and one of the most demanding for our front tyres.
“Front tyre stability is crucial under braking, especially at the end of the two fast straights as riders brake from over 300 km/h to around just 80km/h into the hairpins, and the high speed corners demand good shoulder grip and durability. Tyre durability and a good bike setup are crucial here as the high ambient and track temperatures mean that there is little cooling effect on the tyres, but we visit Sepang for winter tests which means everyone should have sufficient data to optimise their setups.”