After another enduring weekend in the wet, one that will go down in Moto2 history as the year that Johann Zarco did the double, winning the 600cc for the second consecutive year, the Ajo Motorsport rider was joined on the podium of the Shell Malaysian Moto2 Motorcycle Grand Prix race at the Sepang International Circuit by Franco Morbidelli and Jonas Folger.
The grid positions for the Sepang Moto2
Zarco had qualified on pole ahead of the penultimate round of the Moto2 season and was joined on the front row by the Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider, Morbidelil, and Axel Pons (AGR Team). Dynavolt Intact GP rider Folger started the race from the front of the second row having qualified in fourth position in the wet.
Great start from Folger in the wet
When the race got underway it was the German rider Folger who got a fantastic corner and led into turn one. He was chased by Morbidelli who soon caught him on the first lap to take the lead. Zarco had slotted into third and on the second of the lap race also made his way past Folger. With just six laps had worked his way up to the front and passed Morbidelli to take the lead; he just had to finish the race and he would become the 2016 Moto2 champion, a feat he managed to pull off in Sepang.
A battle continued behind him though, as Morbidelli and Folger both worked hard to try and take second place in Sepang. The rain that had fallen heavily before the race had held off until it was over, and towards the end of the race the track began to dry out. This meant that the riders were able to drop their lap times significantly as the Dunlops adapted to the changing conditions.
A battle commenced on track between Folger and Morbidelli for second
With just four laps of the race remaining, Folger made his attack on Morbidelli cleanly passing him at turn 13 of the track. One to retaliate, Morbidelli retaliated on the next lap, and came very close for comfort when he went up the inside of Folger. Folger then stuffed it past him at turn four spoiling Morbidelli’s momentum in the meantime.
Folger made a mistake
On the penultimate lap, Folger almost had second in the bag, when he ran on at turn seven of the track. He went too hot into the corner as he tried to get away from the attacking Italian, and ran wide and was forced onto the run-off tarmac area. He was able to recover, but as he lost time and momentum, Morbidelli was able to take full advantage, passed him and continued on immediately extending a lead. There was nothing Folger could do; as Zarco took the win and the championship, Morbidelli finished second in Sepang, and Folger finished 0.433 seconds behind him in third.
Where that leaves the championship…
Although the Moto2 champion has been decided, there are now still three riders in contention of claiming the second spot. Zarco does not even have to show up as he has extended his lead to 37 points in Sepang, Thomas Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) is currently second with 214 points, 11 ahead of Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) in third on 203 points, and Morbidelli is in fourth on 197 points. Morbidelli collecting his much deserved first win at the final round in Valencia, would mean that Luthi has to finish in at least eighth if he wants to finish second in the championship.
Folger is in his own battle for fifth with British rider Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) who has crashed out of the last two rounds allowing to catch him up. Lowes is on 162 points, and Folger is on 159, and so although they are not in contention of competing for the top four at this late stage, they will both want to do as well as possible in the Moto2 class before they both, along with Zarco and Rins, progress to the MotoGP class next year to begin their rookie season.
Three podiums in three overseas rounds for Morbidelli
A disappointed Morbidelli spoke of how he “struggled a little to understand that with the championship already done, why Johann kept pushing in second place”, however he still felt it was “a nice race” and said “congratulations to him for winning the championship”.
Morbidelli found that he himself was “very fast in the wet conditions” however he noticed that “when the track started to dry out” that he “could not keep the same pace with Johann”. Instead, he was “able to hold second”, an achievement that he feels is “great” for both him and the team. He said, “I go to Valencia with a good feeling for the final race and to aim for third position in the championship.”
Folger analyses the lap times in Sepang
Folger on the other hand said that he “started confident in the race” but in the end he didn’t think that he “would have such big grip problems in the race”. The rider noted that on Friday he could “do 2:21 times in the wet”, and when the race began he was lapping at 2:26 minutes. Although he knew there was more water on the track he mentioned that “even to the end when it got drier” that he still “had problems”, saying, “In any case, it was hard!”
Going on, Folger admitted that he still found that “Johann and Franco were very fast” however “in the end” he was “quicker than Franco on the drying track”. He noticed that “Johann was already building up a lead” as he thought he “took a lot of risk” as he “had the title win in focus”, this is when he “passed Franco”. This came after he “just had a good run” and he was “sure of the second place” and knew the “distance to Johann was three seconds”.
Folger admits to his mistake that cost him second
Folger said he thought he had to “keep pushing hard in case he makes a mistake”, however then in turn seven he was “a bit too late on the brake” and he “almost lost control of the front”. He said it was “too bad that it was not enough for second place”.
Still, “nevertheless”, Folger said that “a podium is very nice” for he and his team and he offered his “congratulations to Johann for his second Moto2 title”. He said he was “very happy” for Zarco and he felt that the 2016 Moto2 champion has “an incredible season and did very smart races” and he feels that “he deserves it 100%”.