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.
Niccolo Antonelli has topped Moto3 FP2 at Sepang in an extremely tight session; his time of 2:13.583 was a hundredth of a second quicker than Czech rider Jakub Kornfeil. Conditions were hot and sunny but quite humid as cloud cover had began to blanket the circuit over the course of the afternoon. Alex Marquez posted the third fastest time finishing ahead of his primary Championship rival Jack Miller by six thousandths of a second as two hundredths covered the top four.
Efren Vazquez claimed fifth spot ahead of his countrymen Isaac Vinales and Alex Rins while Danny Kent, Enea Bastianini and John McPhee rounded out the top ten placings. Warning flags were displayed around the circuit at the conclusion of the session as monsoonal rain began to fall, the unpredictably tropical conditions emerging much earlier on in the weekend than previous years at the Malaysian circuit.
2014 Sepang MotoGP Preview: The End Of MotoGP's Asian Peregrinations Beckon In The Sweltering Sepang Heat
Another week, another 8 hour flight, another race track. Sepang comes as the last of three grueling weekends chasing around the Pacific Ocean to race in Japan, Australia, and now Malaysia. Even from the comfort of my European home (I lack the funds and, to a lesser extent, the inclination to pursue the paddock halfway around the world), it has been a tough schedule, and the riders and team members I have spoken to about it are all just about ready to come home. Nearly a month away from home, sharing flights, hire cars and hotel rooms can be grating even for the best of friends. Add in the stresses and tensions of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and a lot of people are gritting their teeth and doing their best not to punch the people they work with. Some will even make it home without doing so.
The final leg of MotoGP's odyssey sees the circus travel from Phillip Island, nearly halfway to the South Pole, to Sepang, not far north of the equator. Yet though they are a quarter of a world away, the two have one thing in common: weather. The actual conditions may be different, the cold, changeable climate of Phillip Island a far cry from the sweltering heat of Malaysia, but at both tracks, the weather plays a much greater role in the proceedings than at other tracks. Judging conditions, and preparing for them, is crucial.
If anything, putting Sepang at the end of the trio of flyaways is a difficult decision. The heat and intense humidity at the track makes it the most physically demanding of the three races. Severe dehydration lies waiting for the unwary or the out of shape, if they do not drink enough to recover the fluids lost through sweat and exertion. This is a race which richly deserves its reputation as the most punishing of the year.
Along with the Moto3 and Moto2 entry lists, the FIM announced the provisional entry list for MotoGP for the 2015 season. The list contains no surprises, all the signings already announced.
It does, however, contain two question marks, one large, one small. The large one is whether Marco Melandri will be joining Alvaro Bautista in the Gresini Aprilia squad next season, or whether he will stay on in World Superbikes for another year. Melandri is believed to be wary of the Aprilia MotoGP project, given the lack of competitiveness of the bike. For 2016, a new and greatly revised bike is expected, built specifically for MotoGP, rather than the modified RSV4 which they are currently racing. Melandri may be holding out for a year to assess the competitiveness of a new bike. However, if Aprilia do not back any teams in WSBK next year, then Melandri may find that his hand is being forced. No doubt that situation will finally be resolved next week, at the last round of World Superbikes at Qatar.
The FIM today released the provisional entry list for the 2015 Moto2 class, consisting of 31 entries for next season. Most of the championship contenders remain, with only Maverick Viñales making the move up to MotoGP. They are joined by the two top contenders from Moto3, Alex Rins and Alex Marquez, withMarquez going to the Marc VDS team, and Rins taking the place of Viñales at the Pons HP40 team.
The biggest change in Moto2 is the continuing transformation into an almost completely spec class. A collective fear of risk and innate conservatism sees the vast majority of Suter teams abandon the Swiss chassis builder in favor of Kalex, leaving just a single Suter on the grid, the German rookie Florian Alt at the cash-strapped IODA Racing team. The migration from Suter is odd, as the Swiss chassis builder has two wins, three 2nd places, and six 3rd place finishes, which would suggest that the chassis is extremely competitive.
The mass flight to Kalex means that 23 riders will be on the German chassis. All of the 2014 teams will receive 2015 material, while the newcomers will race the 2014 chassis. In addition to Kalex and Suter, there will be three Tech
The full list of entries for Moto2 appears below. It is still provisional, and so changes may still occur up until the start of the season.
The FIM has finally released the provisional entry lists for the 2015 season. The Moto3 entry list shows a field of 33 riders, with only a single seat still unnamed, the second bike in the Sepang International Circuit team, which is likely to go to a young Malaysian or Asian rider.
With most of the current top riders leaving, off to Moto2 or, in the case of Jack Miller, to MotoGP, the field looks very open for 2015. Romano Fenati and Enea Bastianini remain in their current teams, Bastianini switching from KTM to Honda. Brad Binder takes the place of Miller at Red Bull KTM Ajo, making him one of the favorites for next year.
Fabio Quartararo is the most highly-anticipated entry into the Moto3 championship, Monlau team manager Emilio Alzamora even managing to persuade the FIM to change the rules to allow the French youngster to take part in the first three races, despite not reaching the minimum age of 16 until 20th April, the day after the Argentina round. He will be joined at the Estrella Galicia 0,0 team, not by Maria Herrera, as was widely expected, but by Jorge Navarro, currently riding for the Marc VDS Racing team in Moto3. There will be one female rider, however, as Ana Carrasco will be riding for the Boe41 RBA team, being entered by Aleix Espargaro. She will be joined there by Niklas Ajo and the young Argentinian Gabri Rodrigo.