It rained at the Shell Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix which meant that things got extremely complicated for the MotoGP class as they took to the Sepang International Circuit for the penultimate round of the season. Rain throughout the weekend meant that they were unable to test and adjust settings as much as they would be able to in the dry and so it came down to the morning warm-up session to try and make the best decision ahead of the race.
Mixed results for the MotoGP class in Sepang
Some riders were able to overcome the conditions, some struggled, and some unfortunately got caught out; many riders who made mistakes during the race were able to recover but at the same time had to deal with the consequences that brought with it, whereas some had no choice but to continue.
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) had pushed and dominated all weekend, placing themselves at the top of the timesheets after many of the sessions, but they became victim to the wet conditions in Sepang. As did Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) who was able to remount and re-join the race. Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) made his return to the MotoGP after sustaining fractured vertebrae in Misano, but he also came off during the race.
Hernandez forced to retire from the GP
Yonny Hernandez (Pull & Bear Aspar Ducati) was forced to retire from the 17th round also. This was a result of the tyre choices he had made prior to the race. All riders were on full wet tyres, and he opted for the soft front and hard rear “because it was so raining so hard”, however then he “didn’t expect the track to dry out as much as it did”.
He found on race-day that he “didn’t have the same feeling as the last few days” in Sepang and confirmed that they are unsure of why yet. He is hoping now that “everything goes better in Valencia” so that they can “have a good weekend right the way through to the end” of what he described as “a tough season”.
Crutchlow suffers third crash of weekend
The first to crash out, and what turned out to be his third crash of the weekend, was Crutchlow on the LCR Honda. Heroically, Crutchlow had crashed initially during Free Practice 3, this meant that he had to use Qualifying 1 to progress through to Qualifying 2 so that he could be in with a chance of starting from the first four rows on the grid.
As the second session drew to a close, Crutchlow, who was seen with his hand on ice after the first incident, crashed again. But there was only a few minutes of the session remaining and to avoid starting from lower down on the grid, Crutchlow picked up his bike and carried on, even though it did not feel right; he claimed fifth on the grid
Come to the race, and Crutchlow was pushing to stay with the leaders that had broken away during very wet conditions. He had battled with Marquez to become the top Honda on the track in fourth but the newly crowned 2016 MotoGP champion retaliated. With eight laps remaining he came off at turn two, a slow speed corner, but he was thrown from the bike.
Highside sent Crutchlow 'to the moon' from Sepang
He had a high-side causing the airbags in his leathers to go off; he was straight back up to his feet and screamed at his bike in the gravel before he had no choice but to call it a day. It was not the end to his birthday weekend that he had hoped for. He admitted he was feeling “a little sore after the crash”, and although it “wasn’t fast” he still explained how he “high-sided off throttle”. He noticed that Marquez “almost had the same” on the same lap but he “managed to stay on” and also “had the luck of landing back on the bike”.
Prior to his crash he had told himself “don’t do what Marc did” however he said he “nearly ended up on the moon”. Talking about the impact he said he “completely landed on [his] face” and as a result was “a bit disorientated, but then was OK”. Now, after the race, he ended up with “some pain” in his big toe and foot, and confirmed that he had pain his “hand which is broken from the Qualifying crash”. Admitting defeat he said it was “impossible to ride the bike again”.
Crutchlow hoped for a podium
He felt that his result in Sepang “was a shame” as he felt it was “a definite podium opportunity” however he admitted he was “struggling with acceleration”; they have found throughout the season that they aren’t “competitive enough in this are” and to compensate, he and Marquez “had to brake ‘hot’ all the time to make up for this”.
Crutchlow said, “I tried my best and it didn’t work this time” however he was most “disappointed for [his] team”. The Brit admitted, “To spend the week here and get any points is a real shame.” However he said that they will “go away happy enough because of recent results” but said that they “had to try today, and [they] did”.
Marquez crashed out but recovered to 11th
Starting from the front of the second row on the grid, Marquez also crashed out of the race; a result that fortunately does not affect his championship as he has already claimed the 2016 title. It is also a result that comes at the end of a very difficult weekend for the Spaniard. He was present in FP1, but missed FP2 as he was suffering with Gastro.... He decided to sit the session out in order to recuperate and returned to complete the remainder of the sessions.
During the race, as mentioned before he was battling with Crutchlow for fourth, and having already had a near miss, he crashed out at turn 11 of lap 11 when the front tucked which meant he slid out. Marquez however, was able to get his bike restarted and re-joined the race. The track had managed to dry out and he was able to find his pace again and finished the race in 11th claiming four more championship points.
Difficult day for Marquez who stands by choice of carbon brakes in wet
Marquez described the Sepang GP as a “difficult day” as he saw that the weather in the morning was “unstable” and that the race turned out to be wet. He said, “Before the start I decided to use the carbon disc brakes, which gave me the chance to be stronger in braking.” Normally, the riders opt for steel brakes which are easier to retain heat in the wet conditions and so it was an unusual choice but Marquez was adamant “it was the right choice” and that the carbon discs had “nothing to do with the crash”.
He spoke of how at the beginning of the race he was “riding wuite comfortable in the leading group” in the hope that he could try to “save the tyres for the end of the race” but then the crash happened “suddenly”. If it had not been for the crash he thought that he “had a chance to finish on the podium” in Sepang but instead “it was not to be”; optimistically he said it is “better that this happens now that [they] already have the title”. He said, “This experience will help us for next year and helps us appreciate the World Championship even more.”
Iannone crashed out on his return to the MotoGP from injury
Just a lap after the Honda riders crashed, Iannone came off. He was making his return to racing after missing several rounds due to his high-side in Misano Free Practice where he sustained fractured vertebrae. After the initial Free Practice session, he too sat out the wet Free Practice 2 possibly thinking that there would be nothing gained from the wet experience, however all of the sessions and the race were also wet.
Iannone form was promising as he took to his Desmosedici GP16 for the first time in a while and was one of the fastest despite the conditions. He qualified on sixth and was battling for a podium place with his good friend Valentino Rossi on the Movistar Yamaha in second. The front also folded on Iannone at turn nine and he was unable to recover his bike.
Iannone was enjoying the race up until the crash
Iannone felt it was “a great race” as he found he “started off really strongly and aggressively”, and he spoke of how he “had a great scrap with Rossi” that he said he “enjoyed a lot”. Although he crashed, he said that in the end he was “pleased” as he knew he had “gave 100%”.
His result means that he has slipped to 10th in the championship behind Hector Barbera (Avintia Ducati), who stepped in for the Italian at the last two rounds for the factory Ducati Team, and finished as the highest placed independent team rider in fourth at Sepang. He has one more round to try and recover some points to try and finish ninth ahead of Barbera.
Iannone explained, “In view of my position in the championship, I ran my own race without thinking of the points and I opted to take some risks right until the very end.” He thought that over the duration of the weekend in Sepang they “were missing a little something” as he found they were “not able to improve the set-up of the bike” after Qualifying. He said, “We had some ideas and we hoped that the race was going to be dry, but it didn’t turn out that way.”
Bradl able to continue after spill during race
Unfortunately for Stefan Bradl (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) he also had his result in Sepang ruined because of a crash midway through the race. He was able to get the bike recovered and re-join the race and finished in 17th as he managed to recover a place from Tito Rabat (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), out of the points and almost a minute of the leaders.
Bradl felt Sepang was “not an easy weekend” for he and the team due to the “variable weather and having a few new components to test”; he found that this meant they “were not able to prepare for the race in the best possible way”. To add to that he spoke of how he “had the crash” and although he was able to re-join he “lost time and positions” and was left “disappointed”. He said, “All we can do now is go back home and set our sights on a good result in the last race at Valencia.”