2014 Sepang Saturday Round Up: Pole Records, The Secret Of Marquez' Speed, And Ridiculous Scenes In Moto3
Fancy a challenge? Try finding a MotoGP fan who is surprised that Marc Marquez claimed pole position at Sepang on Saturday. It was the Repsol Honda man's thirteenth pole of the season, setting a new record for the most poles in a season. It was a blistering lap, making him the first rider to set an officially timed lap under the two-minute mark, the clock finally stopping at 1'59.791. That time has been bettered only a couple of times during the winter tests at Sepang, when cooler temperatures make for a faster track. But to do it now, when ground temperatures got close to 60°C, making the already slippery surface of Sepang even more greasy, is astonishing. Those kinds of track temperatures are almost, but not quite, enough to cook an egg1.
Marquez' record thirteenth pole also offers an insight into exactly what the secret of his success is. He not only holds the record for the most poles in a season, he is also the current leader in pole position frequency. Marquez has secured 50 poles from 113 qualifying session, giving him a strike rate of just over 44%. The only rider to get near to his domination of qualifying was Mick Doohan, who started from pole from 42.3% of his Grand Prix races. The nearest of Marquez' current rivals is Jorge Lorenzo, who has been on pole for 26.4% of his career in Grand Prix.
Why the emphasis on pole position? This is what Marquez does best: find the absolute limit of the performance envelope of his Honda RC213V, and balance right on the edge of it. Because he can do that for one lap, he perhaps has a better understanding of just where the limit lies over the distance of a race, and how much he has to risk when making a pass. This, perhaps, holds the key to why he currently has the best win rate in all classes of all of the current riders in MotoGP, just edging out Valentino Rossi by 38.4% to 34.8%. Then again, Rossi was racing before Marquez even started riding a motorcycle, and so has had more time to strike a run of bad luck. And of course, there were those two seasons at Ducati as well...
Press releases after qualifying for the MotoGP class from the teams and Bridgestone:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after qualifying at Sepang:
Full Recap and Results Below.
Full Recap and Results Below.
Marc Marquez has headed the field in the final MotoGP practice hit out at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia; the Spaniard recovered well from a crash at turn four in the opening minutes. He lost the front under heavy braking and skidded across the gravel trap, he was able to jog away unharmed. Dani Pedrosa continued his strong weekend and lead for most of the session but eventually settled for finishing seven hundredths shy of his team mate in second, he continued to show impressive race pace however. Jorge Lorenzo made it an all Spanish top three and was a further two tenths behind Pedrosa.
Full Recap and Results Below.
Tito Rabat has displayed unrivaled consistency to top the Moto2 FP3 session at Sepang, under brilliant sunshine the Championship leader reeled off a succession of ominous lap times within hundredths of his best time of 2:07.405. This put him three tenths clear of his countryman Maverick Vinales, Johan Zarco and Sandro Cortese who were all very evenly matched. Rabat's Championship rival and team mate Mika Kallio had his work cut out for him if he hopes to challenge on Sunday, the Finn had to settle for fifth spot a further two tenths behind.
Young German rider Jonas Folger posted the sixth quickest lap and ended the session ahead of Franco Morbidelli and the Suisse duo of Dominique Aegerter and Tom Luthi. Takaaki Nakagami rounded out the top ten as he continues to try and recover some semblance of the form that he displayed last season.
Dani Pedrosa has continued his strong weekend to date and topped the third MotoGP free practice session at Sepang, the Repsol Honda rider showed excellent consistency to edge out his compatriot Jorge Lorenzo by just over a tenth of a second while Marc Marquez completed the top three a further tenth behind. Andrea Dovizioso claimed fourth spot with a quick last ditch lap; the session was red flagged with just over two minutes remaining following a crash for Pol Espargaro. This resulted in a frantic final lap scramble as riders 'on the bubble' poured out of the pit lane and tried to nudge their way into the top ten and Q2 later today.
Stefan Bradl posted the fifth fastest time ahead of Cal Crutchlow, Valentino Rossi and Aleix Espargaro while the Tech 3 pairing of Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro rounded out the top ten. Espargaro had two crashes during the session, his second was a massive high side under braking into turn one and caused red flags to be shown as he lay prone on the track, his bike ablaze beside him.
John McPhee has ended the third Moto3 free practice session at the top of the time sheets after some excellent strategic riding, under perfect sunny conditions the young Scotsman took full advantage of the slipstream available down the final two straights to post a lap time of 2:12.734. The Honda rider's time was almost four tenths quicker than the rest of the field, just shy of a second quicker than anyone could manage yesterday and inside lap record pace. Isaac Vinales posted the second fastest time ahead of Alex Marquez, Jakub Kornfeil and Efren Vazquez.
Brad Binder recovered from his mechanical issues on Friday to take sixth spot while ever-improving rookie rider Juanfran Guevara claimed seventh followed by Miguel Oliveira, Danny Kent and Jack Miller. Miller once again showed his displeasure at riders trying to gain a tow around the lengthy Malaysian circuit, slipstreaming and the ability to keep a cool head will be crucial in this afternoon's Qualifying session.
If you wanted a demonstration of just why the weather at Sepang can play such a decisive factor, you need look no further than MotoGP FP2. Fifteen minutes before the MotoGP bikes were set to take to the track, the Moto3 machines were finishing their second free practice session in sunshine and sweltering heat. But a couple of minutes before MotoGP FP2 was meant to start, the heavens opened, producing a deluge that had first-time visitors to Malaysia hunting around for gopher wood with which to build a boat.
The downpour covered the track in several centimeters of standing water, making it impossible to ride. The session was delayed for twenty five minutes, starting after the rain had nearly eased up completely. Once the session got underway, the weather cleared up completely, the last ten minutes taking place in glorious sunshine once again.
The changes in the weather had a dramatic effect on the state of the track. It went from being fully wet, with water everywhere, to having just a thin layer of rainwater on it at the halfway mark, to being dry at most of the corners around the track once the session ended. Full wets were essential at the start of the session, but forty five minutes later, slicks were starting to become a viable option.
Press releases from the MotoGP teams and Bridgestone after the first day of practice at Sepang:
Press releases from the Moto2 and Moto3 teams after the first day of practice at Sepang:
Championship leader Tito Rabat has dominated the second Moto2 free practice session at Sepang, the circuit was bathed in sunshine at the start of proceedings but riders stayed in their garages as they waited for the track to dry out completely. After twenty five minutes of lost time bikes began to emerge from the pit lane and got down to business. Rabat's time of 2:07.729 was the quickest of the day and put him almost half a second clear of his countryman Maverick Vinales in second.
Mika Kallio took third spot a further three tenths behind his team mate Rabat, he finished ahead of Luis Salom and Takaaki Nakagami. Jonas Folger posted the sixth fastest time and was followed on the time sheets by Tom Luthi, Johan Zarco and Axel Pons. QMMF bound rider Julian Simon rounded out the top ten.
Jorge Lorenzo has lead the way during a rain-affected MotoGP FP2 at Sepang; the session was initially delayed by twenty five minutes due to a torrential downpour that fell at the conclusion of Moto3 FP2 as the circuit was blanketed in thick cloud. Once the rain halted the wind picked up and managed to sweep the track and quickly dry it out enough for the riders to emerge from the pit lane. Lorenzo circulated with impressive consistency and ended up at the top of the time sheets, his benchmark time was some thirteen seconds slower than the pace set in the morning's opening practice despite the track drying considerably by the end of the session.