Circuit: Sepang International Circuit
Journey Of The Jackass, Chapter 18: The Malaysian Malaise
In the afterglow of Phillip Island, it was straight to Malaysia for the penultimate round of a decade of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and Petronas Yamaha got the news they’d been hoping for ahead of their home Grand Prix- Fabio Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli are getting A-Spec Yamahas next year.
They celebrated by basically thumping everyone in every practice session, as the previous lap record was consistently bettered by both riders, with Fabio proving the faster in both Friday sessions, while Franco was fastest in both Saturday sessions, as Marc Marquez pulled off a 64 degree save barely 2 laps into FP1, and basically everyone of note (Jack included) went straight into Q2.
In the meantime, Jorge Lorenzo had a fall in FP3 that kind of summed up his 2019, braking a bit too deep into Turn 1, going onto the slippery edge of the track, and suffering a low speed highside.
For shit’s sake Jorge, just sit out a year and let your body heal, this is just sad to watch.
Further summing up Lorenzo’s problems, Johann Zarco, who had only been on the LCR Honda for barely a fortnight, managed to advance into Q2, as Cal Crutchlow joined him on the other independent Honda with a barnstorming final sector to kick out Joan Mir.
After the first round of lap times in Q2, Quartararo smashed the lap record again, before he was bettered by Morbidelli, who was then bettered by Maverick Vinales, as nobody had an answer to the performance of the Yamaha through the high speed corners, and Crutchlow was even ahead of Marquez!
As the final runs slowly descended into a petty cat and mouse battle for a tow, Petronas Yamaha tried pulling Honda’s bluff, but the factory team was ready and sent Marquez out to stick to the Frenchman like shit to a blanket and get a tow.
Quartararo was visibly pissed off at an unrelenting Marquez, who basically copied everything the Frenchman was doing, trying to destroy Fabio mentally, for the simple fact that he can serve it up to Marc.
After basically every rider tried joining in on the Tow-ga party, Fabio took off, and as the last flying laps began, Marquez, pushing so hard with a cold left hand side, suffered a monster highside at Turn 2, vaulting him 20,000 feet in the air, and at speed, he bashed both his knees, his elbows, and face planted into the tarmac, before tucking himself in and rolling into the infield.
I guess that’s what happens when you try pulling the Devil’s tail.
Fortunately for Honda, Marc was 98.97% fine.
Capping off the moment, Quartararo, on cold tyres, smashed the lap record for about the 20th time this weekend to claim pole from Top Gun and Morbidelli, and Fabio celebrated so hard he managed to rip his visor off.
Confirming their pace this weekend with a front row lockout, it was Yamaha’s best Saturday of the year, with Jack being the ‘best of the rest’ in a really nice 4th, as Valentino Rossi in 6th ensured all four Yamahas started inside the first 2 rows, Zarco was seriously impressive to start from 9th, while Marquez was buffeted down to 11th, his worst Saturday performance since he qualified 13th in Italy in 2015.
El Diablo had to withstand a psychological barrage from the Ant of Cervera, and in a really good sign for the future, he beat him all ends up.
On Another Note
After Qualifying on Saturday, there was tragedy in the Asia Talent Cup support race, as Indonesian rider Afridza Munandar, who had been in 3rd place in the Championship, suffered a terrible crash at Turn 10 on Lap 1, leaving him with critical injuries, for which he was taken to KL Hospital via helicopter, but he couldn’t be saved, and passed away on Saturday night.
The organisers, as per the wishes of his fellow riders, decided to go ahead with Race 2 on Sunday in his memory.
Race (20 laps)
Some 103,850 fans rocked up for Sunday, and there were a couple of interesting tyre choices from the Ducatis- Jack and Dovi went for the Soft/Soft to help with their cornering disadvantage to the Yamahas, whereas pretty much every other rider went for at least one medium to make sure their tyres didn’t fall off a cliff in the typical brutal KL conditions.
It was going to take a serious effort to nurse those tyres home and try and get a good result.
At the start, Miller took off with that Ducati launch control and claimed the early lead from Vinales, who would reclaim the lead at Turn 11, while Quartararo plummeted down to 8th, and Marquez launched like a rocket and carved his way up to 2nd by the end of the lap, and was soon fighting with the Ducatis of Miller and Dovi for the final podium spots.
On replay, Marquez had managed to pick off 6 riders in one by hugging to the inside line and launching down to Turn 2!
As Vinales built a 1.4 second lead, Marquez would reclaim 2nd place from Miller on Lap 3, and set off after the factory Yamaha, with Dovi joining in on the Jack-off, and the Doctor had a go at the Pramac as well, but went in too hot to Turn 11, and the Jackass retained 4th.
Rossi had another go on Lap 5, but couldn’t go with the Ducati up the back straight, but eventually, Vale got the job done next lap with another Turn 9 attempt, and Jack was seriously fighting to stay upright, as Alex Rins tried making a pass at the last corner, but the Spaniard only managed to thump into Jack’s side, and knock off a front aero piece on the Suzuki.
It didn’t seem to matter too much, because Rins would pass Miller for 5th, and it became clear that our hero’s soft front tyre was toast halfway into the race, having spent basically all of it just trying to keep pace with the front runners, soon getting passed by Morbidelli, but amazingly, Quartararo had made absolutely no ground after his shocker of a start, and was some 8 tenths slower than his Friday long runs.
He did eventually pass Miller for 7th, and at the same time, Jack’s rear wheel cover was finally dislodged as a result of the Rins contact, and very nearly took out Fabio!
On another note, Dovi’s front tyre seemed to be encountering the same problems as Jack, and he went too deep into Turn 1 chasing Marquez, which ended his chances of 2nd and left him desperately fighting off Rossi, while Rins was working his way into the race with his good tyre management, but outside of The Doctor running wide once, the Suzuki never really threatened the year of the Yamaha.
In the meantime, Vinales was absolutely flying, and Marquez simply couldn’t go with him, as the Yamaha built a 2.5 second lead, and rather impressively, he did what few riders have been able to do to Marquez in 2019, and that’s straight up beat him.
The head start did help, but even then, Marc had no answers to Vinales never dipping below a lap time of 2.01.
Meantime, Miller was still a sitting duck, and he was soon fighting with Zarco, who pushed really hard for 8th place, which he very nearly claimed on several occasions, but the Ducati’s straight line speed somehow kept the Jackass ahead.
A week after his Phillip Island podium, Crutchlow crashed from 11th at the last corner on Lap 14 after losing the front, while Vale simply couldn’t find a way past Dovi with the Ducati’s whopping 12 km/h advantage down the back straight as Rins stayed around like a wet fart.
As Zarco was putting sustained pressure on Miller, he was deadset pummeled off his Honda on Lap 16, thanks to an aggressive Joan Mir passing attempt at Turn 14, which very nearly hit Jack’s rear tyre!
Mir earned a long lap penalty from the FIM, just as he’d passed the Jackass for 8th, but alas, he dropped to 10th behind our hero, and the factory Ducati of Danilo Petrucci.
But there was no stopping the Top Gun, who was downright fantastic from start to finish, and he atoned for that last lap crash at the Island by claiming Yamaha’s first win in Malaysia since 2010, as Marquez completed a fine salvage job to run a clear 2nd, and Dovi did enough to claim 3rd from Rossi and Rins.
After looking red hot on Friday + Saturday, the Petronas Yamahas just weren’t there on Sunday, with Morbidelli beating Quartararo to a lonely 6th and 7th, and Jack’s soft front gamble just didn’t work, mainly thanks to having to push so hard just to try and keep pace in those early laps, and was basically saved from sliding down further down the order thanks to Mir taking out Zarco.
Lorenzo finished 14th and cored points for the first time since Misano, but unfortunately for the home crowd, Hafizh Syahrin just missed a point, but still he got a huge ovation on the cooldown lap.
On another note, showing he’s still got a few tricks left, The Doctor recorded the fastest lap, and oddly enough, continued his trend of finishing in either 8th or 4th, which now stands at 7 races.
So it was was Maverick’s 7th MotoGP win, moving him above Rins into 3rd in the Championship, and Marquez made it 28 consecutive finishes with a podium, and in the process, broke Lorenzo’s 2010 record (383) for the most points in a Premier Class season, moving on to 395 for the season, and based on his performances this year, he’ll make history as the first rider to pass 400 points in a season at Valencia.
Dovi also moved on to 256 points, just 5 off his best ever haul in a MotoGP season, which is funny to think about, when you remember that he won 6 times in 2017, although he has claimed more podiums this year.
On a parting note, the last championship that still matters is still very close- Ducati Corse lead Repsol Honda by only 2 points with that one race to go in Valencia, and it’s once again all up to Marc to deliver the Triple Crown to Honda.
Moto2: The Remy Rollercoaster
After several rounds of barely keeping his head above water and seeing his championship lead slowly whittled away, Alex Marquez fired back with the best possible result, claiming Pole Position ahead of Remy Gardner’s teammate Tesuta Nagashima, and Brad Binder, and Remy did go straight into Q2, and
Crunching the numbers, the younger of the Marquez brothers would only need to finish 2nd, assuming Binder won the race, and he’d also need to finish ahead of Tom Luthi, starting from the 2nd row.
Race (18 laps)
Binder would beat Marquez off the line, and the two immediately began their race-long fight for the lead, with Nagashima sticking on from his front row start to run in 3rd!
That lead lasted all of 3 laps, as Binder undid his good work by running wide at Turn 14, allowing Marquez through into the lead, and the South African set about charging him down again.
3 laps later, Marquez went slightly wide at Turn 7 and comprised his turn in for the right hander, and Binder drew alongside, but couldn’t get past the Saniard, as Nagashima sat back and watched, in the off-hope that they’d take each other out.
One lap later, Binder lined up Marquez for a pass at the final turn, but the Spaniard executed a textbook undercut to retain the lead up the straight, and the duel climaxed with the two taking each other right to the limit under braking for Turn 1, but Binder made this pass stick, taking the lead, which he wouldn’t relinquish again.
After running as high as 6th, Remy tumbled down the order, as his Kalex struggled for grip in what were just about the toughest conditions for any race in 2019, plummeting out of the Top 10 as a result, which for all I know, could have been the result of those grip struggles, or if he simply made a mistake.
Fittingly, it would be the Top 3 in the Championship who would fight it out for the win, with Binder leading from Marquez, as Tom Luthi fought his was up to 3rd past Nagashima and Marquez’ teammate Xavi Vierge, needing to finish ahead of Marc to keep the fight alive all the way to the end, but despite making up plenty of time, Luthi never got past the Spaniard.
Remy’s race almost ended when Sam Lowes ran right up his arse at Turn 9 and fell off with 5 laps to go, but the Aussie, despite a fair old hit to his right rear, somehow stayed upright and carried on to finish in 14th.
Out in front, Binder would add to the memorable weekend for South Africa by claiming another win in 2019, but Marquez would finish ahead of Luthi and take 2nd place, and officially win the war for the 2019 Moto2 title, making him the first rider to win the revamped Moto3 and Moto2 titles!
Alex won his Moto3 title in the same year Marc won the 2014 MotoGP title, and the brothers have repeated that historic achievement 5 years later.
And barring any unforeseen changes, Marquez has an unassailable 28 point lead with a race to go.
Next Up: The season finale in Valencia in a fortnight!