MotoGP Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) claimed his 70th career win after taking victory at the Shell Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The 2018 Champion looked... Malaysian GP, Sepang: raceday roundup – MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3

MotoGP

Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) claimed his 70th career win after taking victory at the Shell Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The 2018 Champion looked set to lock horns with nine-time World Champion Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) in the final stages, but the race would end in disaster for ‘The Doctor’ as he crashed out with four to go. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completed the podium at Sepang International Circuit, the latter from pole, and home hero Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) stormed from the back of the grid to the top ten in a race to remember in Malaysia.

When the lights went out it was Rossi who got a stellar launch from P2, with pole man Zarco slightly sluggish off the line and ‘The Doctor’ getting a comfortable holeshot ahead of the the Frenchman, who managed to brake late to slot into P2. Jack Miller (Alma Pramac Racing) was able to leapfrog Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) into P3 at the start, with Marquez making up one position into P6. The premier class riders then settled, but this came after Marquez and teammate Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) exchanged paint on the opening lap. The 2018 Champion would soon start to make his way forward though, despite a hairy last corner moment at the end of the opening lap that led to Iannone crashing out directly behind the seven-time Champion.

Back at the front, Rossi and Zarco were off as Yamaha had a 1-2 in the opening exchanges, but Marquez hunted them down after making his way past Miller. The Honda rider was on the exhaust of Zarco’s M1 machine and soon enough he managed to slice his way through. Turn 14 was the chosen destination after a slight error from the number 5 machine, with arch-rival Rossi now in his sights. But the number 46 was in an excellent rhythm at the front as the gap between the duo hovered at 3/4s of a second, with Zarco beginning to lose touch at the halfway stage of the race as Rossi continued to press on. 1.1 seconds was the gap to Marquez as 10 laps ticked over at Sepang.

With eight to go, Rossi was still pumping in the lap times to keep the gap above a second to Marquez, with Zarco now over three seconds behind his fellow Yamaha rider. However, the gap then dipped below the one-second barrier with seven to go and the seven-time Champion was hunting down the nine-time Champion. As ever, Marquez was pushing the limit and there was a slight scare for the number 93 at Turn 5; a ‘mini Marquez moment’, let’s say.

With five to go at Sepang, the gap was just 0.7, as we set ourselves for a grandstand finish between two of the sport’s all-time greats. But then, disaster struck ‘The Doctor’. A return to victory after 26 races went begging as he lost the front of his YZR-M1 at Turn 1 with four laps to go and he picked up his stricken Yamaha in front of the Rossi grandstand, leaving Marquez with a lonely ride home to the win. The result also sealed the Constructors’ crown for Honda, adding yet more to celebrate for the number 93 and his factory.

The battle for P2 and P3 between Zarco and Rins was far from finished, however. As the last lap began, Zarco led but Rins was soon past, with the Frenchman having no answer for the Suzuki and the Spaniard crossing the line to take his fourth podium of the season. Zarco took his first since Jerez in third, not able to quite strike back but completing a top weekend for both.

After a less than impressive start, Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) recovered to string together a strong latter half of the Grand Prix to finish P4, with Pedrosa crossing the line P5 on his final racing visit to the Sepang International Circuit. It was a subdued race for one of the pre-race favourites Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team), however, as the winner here for the last two seasons couldn’t replicate those results and took P6. After Rossi’s crash though, the Italian has sealed P2 in the Championship.

Angel Nieto Team’s Alvaro Bautista was P7 in his penultimate MotoGP™ race and he led fellow Desmosedici rider Miller as the Australian slipped down to P8 after a good start. P9 was his teammate Danilo Petrucci, but arguably ride of the day went to a certain Malaysian: Hafizh Syahrin (Monster Yamaha Tech 3). Starting P23, the home hero was able to get a stunning start as he got himself up to P12 on the opening lap, eventually claiming P10 to close Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) down in the battle for ‘Rookie of the Year’. Emotional before and after the race, it was the first time a Malaysian had ever competed in the premier class and Syahrin marked the occasion in style – even heading out onto the main straight to throw his gloves into a deservedly adoring crowd.

Morbidelli took P12 to limit some of that damage in the standings and remains ahead, just behind Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini). LCR Honda Castrol replacement rider Stefan Bradl claimed P13 and points, the German finishing just ahead of teammate Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda Idemitsu), with Bradley Smith (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) completing the points.

A scorching encounter in Sepang ends with Marquez on top once more, with Rossi left to ponder on what could have been. Valencia in a couple of weeks’ time brings to 2018 Championship to a close, don’t miss any of the action from there as the engines go on for the final time this season – and the top Independent Team rider and Rookie of the Year titles are decided.

Moto2

Francesco Bagnaia (Sky Racing Team VR46) clinched the 2018 Moto2™ World Championship at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix after finishing P3 at Sepang, with title rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) just up the road in second. Bagnaia’s teammate Luca Marini made it an even more memorable day for Sky Racing Team VR46 as he secured his maiden Grand Prix victory in style after coming so close on a number of occasions.

As the lights went out, both of the Championship rivals got off to a flyer but it was Marini who led coming out of Turn 1 after a messy opening corner for his fellow front row starters; Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors – Speed Up) and Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) both running in hot. This allowed Bagnaia and Oliveira to slip through up the inside to get into P2 and P3; pretty much the perfect getaway for ‘Pecco’, who slotted in behind teammate Marini.

Marini then got himself into a rhythm at the front, with Bagnaia and Oliveira battling away for P2 – the title firmly in Bagnaia’s hands at this early stage of the race, even with Oliveira making a pass stick at Turn 4 with 12 laps to go. The Portuguese rider then locked his radar on race leader Marini, who now had a one second lead, with Bagnaia starting to slip into the clutches of compatriot Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team). Polesitter Marquez and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Pons HP40) were also in hot pursuit of the Championship leader.

Oliveira had reeled in Marini 11 laps remaining, with a win for the KTM rider enough to take the title chase down to Valencia if Bagnaia dropped below the podium positions. With six to go, it seemed the battle for the win was between Marini and Oliveira, with both Baldassarri and Marquez losing touch in the fight for the final podium spot – and Pasini still 0.4 behind countryman Bagnaia.

In sweltering Sepang conditions, Marini was being made to sweat by Oliveira as the continued to look strong for a first Grand Prix win. But the Italian was on rails as he soaked up the pressure from the KTM behind and with two to go, a 0.7 gap had appeared. Going into the final lap, Marini had the biggest lead he’d had for a while, with Bagnaia sitting comfortably in a Championship clinching P3 – and with over a second cushion back to Pasini.

As the chequered flag was waved it was double delight for Sky Racing Team VR46 as Marini took a magnificent maiden Grand Prix victory, with Bagnaia coming home third to seal the 2018 Moto2™ World Championship. Oliveira didn’t go down without a fight as he took P2 at the Sepang International Circuit – and his 11th podium of the season, but it wasn’t quite enough.

Pasini crossed the line in P4, with Quartararo rounding out the top five after getting the better of sixth place Baldassarri and seventh place Marquez in the latter stages. Australian GP winner Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) took P8 in Malaysia after struggling with grip, with Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) rounding out the top ten in P9 and P10 respectively.

Iker Lecuona (Swiss Innovative Investors), Xavi Cardelus (Marinelli Snipers Team), Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing), Tetsuta Nagashima (Idemistu Honda Team Asia), Niki Tuuli (Petronas Sprinta Racing) and Augusto Fernandez (Pons HP40) crashed out.

Just like the lightweight class, the 2018 intermediate class crown was decided in Malaysia and it went the way of ‘Pecco’. A stunning season for the Italian, with teammate Marini continuing his fantastic 2018. Valencia is next and with nothing to lose, who will take victory in the final race of 2018?

Moto3

Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) was crowned the Moto3™ World Champion at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix after claiming a stunning Sepang International Circuit victory, with main Championship rival Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) slipping down to P5 on the final lap to hand the title to the Spaniard. Leopard Racing teammates Lorenzo Dalla Porta and Enea Bastianini completed the podium after another hard-fought contest in Malaysia.

It was Martin who got the best launch off the line from pole position but with a long run down into Turn 1, Bezzecchi was able to get in his slipstream and brake later to get the holeshot. A tentative lap followed for the Spaniard, who dropped down to P5 by the end of the first lap and at the end of Lap 2, the Championship leader was P8. Bezzecchi, meanwhile, was heading the pack…

The latter then lost the lead of the race at the start of Lap 4, with fellow KTM rider Darryn Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) getting aggressive heading into Turn 1, forcing Bezzecchi out wide and dropping him to sixth, just ahead of Martin. Meanwhile, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) had got past his teammate as the duo battled for P8 – and Martin dropped to P10 at the end of Lap 5.

You could cut the tension with a knife and on Lap 6 there was a nerve-wracking moment between Bezzecchi and fellow Italian Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) as they came together on the exit of Turn 6, both – thankfully – staying upright. Then, with 10 laps to go, Martin started to make progress and at the final corner, a phenomenal late lunge underneath race leader Bezzecchi from P6 almost paid off. The slipstream down the straight, though, did pay off as Martin took the lead of the race. Was this his time to pull the pin?

The answer was yes, but he couldn’t break away. Bezzecchi was back through with nine to go at the final corner and then, with eight laps to go, contact between the two main title leaders at Turn 1. Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) then took the baton and started to create a gap but suddenly, at Turn 1, the Spaniard tucked the front and crashed out of contention – rider ok. The gloves were now off at the front with a huge seven laps remaining and a title on the line.

The hustle and bustle at the front kept on going in true Moto3™ style. But then in true Martin style, with three laps of the race to go and the Championship firmly in the balance, the pin was definitely pulled this time. The Spaniard hit the front and suddenly there was a 0.8 second lead appearing, with Bezzecchi unable to get past Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) and Arbolino. This gap continued to grow as it looked increasingly difficult for Bezzecchi to get the better of Martin, and the Italian’s attention firmly switched to keeping his title aspirations alive.

On the prowl behind Bezzecchi were a gaggle of hungry Moto3™ riders. Di Giannantonio, Dalla Porta, Arbolino, Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team), Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse), Enea Bastianini (Leopard Racing) and Binder were all there in the hunt for P2. The last lap started and at Turn 4, Bezzecchi was out on the curb and down to P5 – a Championship losing position. Could the Italian recover? The answer was no, Bezzecchi pushed all he could but would cross the line P5. Despair for the Italian, and jubilation for Martin who took the victory by an impressive 3.5 seconds.

Dalla Porta crossed the line in P2 for his fifth podium of the season, with teammate Bastianini recovering in the latter stages to grab a podium that means he becomes the most successful Moto3™ rider in history on rostrum count. Australian GP winner Arenas missed out on a podium by 0.038, with Bezzecchi pipping ‘Diggia’ on the line – and the duo now have P2 in the Championship to fight for in Valencia. Binder ended the race in P7, Arbolino was eighth, Suzuki P9 and teammate Niccolo Antonelli securing a top ten on his return from injury.

Starting from the pitlane, home hero Adam Norrodin (Petronas Sprinta Racing) produced a stunning comeback rider to get himself into the lead group. But with little over two laps to go, the Malaysian rider crashed out at the final corner. John McPhee (CIP – Green Power), Dennis Foggia (SKY Racing Team VR46) and Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) all crashed at Turn 9, with Celestino Vietti (SKY Racing Team VR46) also crashing in a separate incident at the same place.

So that’s it, Martin becomes the #Mart1nator to take the Moto3™ World Championship in Malaysia. A wonderful season capped off in sensational style, with Bezzecchi and Di Giannantonio now battling for P2 in the Championship in Valencia.