MotoGP King Marquez Goes for 12th Victory of 2019
SEPANG INTERNATIONAL CIRCUIT, Malaysia, November 3, 2019
Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda CASTROL RC213V) go into this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix still buzzing from their superb one-two in last Sunday's Australian Grand Prix.
This Sunday the HRC pair will go all out to score their fourth double podium of 2019 in the penultimate race of the year, even though weather conditions will be dramatically different. This week the MotoGP paddock travelled from springtime southern Australia, where race-day temperature was just 16 degrees, to the tropics, where 30-degree heat and high humidity will dominate the weekend.
Marquez has already proven he's a winner this year whatever the conditions: hot, cold, dry, wet or in between. His Phillip Island success was his 11th of 2019 and his 55th MotoGP victory, making him Honda's most successful rider of all time.
The 26-year Spaniard has already won this year's MotoGP Riders World Championship, which made him the sport's youngest six-times premier-class king, and helped Honda win the MotoGP Constructors World Championship.
This weekend his aim, along with team-mate Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team RC213V) will be to take the lead in the MotoGP Team World Championship. If rider, manufacturer and team do take the triple crown it will be their third in succession, further proof of the amazing talent of Marquez and the incredible performance of Honda's MotoGP machines, which have won eight of the last nine constructors crowns.
Marquez is assured a huge welcome in Malaysia, the heart of South East Asia's MotoGP boom. The country became part of MotoGP in 1991, when the Shah Alam circuit hosted the racing, which moved to Sepang in 1999. The next South East Asian nation to join the MotoGP World Championship was Thailand last year, with Indonesia due to follow in 2021.
Motorcycles and scooters are a way of life in South East Asia, which is one reason why the region is producing more and more talented riders. Honda is playing a major part in this boom, by backing the Asia Talent Cup, which puts youngsters on the road to MotoGP, the Asia Talent Team in the Moto3 Junior World Championship, the Astra Honda Racing Team in the Moto2 European Championship and the Honda Team Asia squads in the Moto2 and Moto3 World Championships.
Marquez is no stranger to success at Sepang. His victory in last year's Malaysian MotoGP race was his third at the track, following MotoGP success in 2014 and a 125cc win in 2010. This weekend he won't only be seeking his 12th success of the season, he will also be chasing his sixth consecutive victory. The remarkable youngster has won the last five races at Misano, Aragon, Chang, Motegi and Phillip Island.
Crutchlow has also had a good run of recent results after a slight lull. He was sixth at Aragon, fifth at Motegi and second at Phillip Island. That last result was his tenth MotoGP podium with Honda machinery, which includes victories in the 2016 Czech and Australian GPs and the 2018 Argentine GP.
The 34-year-old Briton – who celebrated his birthday on Tuesday – has yet to stand on the podium at Sepang and his goal this weekend will be to change that. Crutchlow missed last year's Malaysian GP following injury.
Lorenzo is looking forward to returning to warmer climes this week after struggling at chilly and windy Phillip Island, where some riders had a difficult time trying to get heat into their tires so they could ride fast with confidence.
And yet Malaysia is one of the few countries in which the three-times MotoGP World Champion has yet to win a MotoGP race, although he has stood atop the Sepang podium once, when he won the 250cc race in 2006. The 32-year-old Spaniard has also finished in the top three in MotoGP – he was second in 2012, 2015 and 2017, and third in 2010, 2013, 2014 and 2016.
Johann Zarco (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V) will also be hoping for better weather this weekend, after making his Honda MotoGP debut in ever-changing weather conditions at Phillip Island. The 29-year-old Frenchman spent the three days learning his 2018-spec RC213V machines, which are usually ridden by Takaaki Nakagami (LCR Honda IDEMITSU RC213V), who finished his season early to undergo surgery on a troublesome injury.
Zarco enjoys Sepang – he finished third in the 2017 and 2018 MotoGP race at the track and won the 2015 and 2016 Moto2 races there.
Sepang is one of the toughest venues in the MotoGP championship, largely because of the tropical heat and humidity, which places huge demands on riders, their bikes and tires. The track was built alongside Kuala Lumpur International Airport and its excellent mix of corners makes the venue popular with riders and teams.
Riders need a little bit of everything from their motorcycles to get around Sepang at a good pace: straight-line speed, braking performance, maneuverability and good edge grip from the tires. The circuit's demanding nature has long made it a popular venue for machine testing; indeed each MotoGP year traditionally begins with preseason testing at Sepang in February, so this weekend's Malaysian GP is the paddock's second visit of 2019.
Honda has a rich history of premier-class success in Sepang, starting with Valentino Rossi winning the 2001 500cc race on his NSR500 and the 2003 MotoGP race aboard his Repsol Honda Team RC211V. Repsol Honda Team riders have won five of the seven Sepang MotoGP races aboard RC213V machines: Marquez in 2014 and 2018 and Dani Pedrosa in 2012, 2013 and 2015.
Only one World Championship of MotoGP's three categories remains to be won either this Sunday or at the season finale at Valencia, Spain, on November 17. Four riders have a chance of winning the Moto2 series, the traditional springboard into MotoGP.
Marc's younger brother Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Kalex) has led the championship since he won the Barcelona Moto2 race in June. However, the 23-year-old Spaniard hasn't won a race since August's Czech GP and goes into Sepang coming under pressure from two on-form riders just behind him
Marquez currently stands 28 points ahead of Thomas Luthi (Dynavolt Intact GP Kalex) and 33 points in front of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo KTM). Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up Speed Up) is also in with a chance, although he is a further ten points behind Binder, so a lot would have to happen for the 23-year-old Spaniard to make it through.
Marquez does have the chance to wrap up the title this weekend by beating Luthi and Binder, but the 33-year-old Swiss and the 24-year-old South African have mostly out-performed the points leader in recent races. Binder has scored two victories and a second place from the last four races, while Luthi has been second and third at the last two. Meanwhile Marquez hasn't been on the podium since Aragon in September.
This is another big weekend for dazzling rookie Somkiat Chantra (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex), the latest South East Asian rider to burst into Grand Prix racing.
In early October the 20-year-old Thai scored his best GP result, finishing ninth at his home race, and he hopes for another great result at Sepang, which he knows from his days in the Asia Talent Cup. Indeed Chantra won the 2016 Asia Talent Cup with a thrilling victory at the Sepang finale in October of that year.
Chantra has spent most of this year learning new tracks in Europe and around the world, proving his skills by fighting his way into the World Championship points in the GPs of Argentina, Czech Republic, Austria, San Marino, Japan and at home in Thailand.
Team-mate and fellow rookie Dimas Ekky Pratama (IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia Kalex) has been going through the same learning process as Chantra. However, his efforts have not been helped by injuries sustained at June's Dutch TT, which forced him to miss seven races. The 26-year-old Indonesian returned to action in Thailand and is still chasing his first points score.
Honda won its second Riders Championship and Constructors Championship last Sunday when Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW) secured the Moto3 title with another superb race win. The 22-year-old Italian therefore comes Sepang with much of the pressure off his shoulders, so he can ride more freely, without worrying about the title.
Riders of Honda's superb NSF250RW machine have once again dominated Moto3, taking 12 victories so far this year and filling five of the top-six places in the championship standings.
Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers Honda NSF250RW) stands third overall but only four points ahead of Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing Honda NSF250RW), who finished right behind team-mate Dalla Porta at Phillip Island. Next are John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing Honda NSF250RW) and Niccolo Antonelli (Sic58 Squadra Corse Honda NSF250RW).
If Chantra has been Honda Team Asia's standout rookie in Moto2 this year, the Spain-based squad has found another great talent in Ai Ogura (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW). The 18-year-old from Saitama has also been serving his apprenticeship in Grand Prix racing, but had amazed with his speed at many races.
Ogura took his first front-row start at May's French GP and his first podium at September's Aragon GP. He has scored points in 12 of 17 races, including seven top tens, so he has also shown admirable consistency. Like Chantra, Ogura knows Sepang from the Asia Talent Cup, so he will aim for another podium on Sunday.
Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia Honda NSF250RW) started his third season in the Moto3 World Championship in the best way possible with victory in the opening Qatar GP. Since then the 19-year-old from Fukuoka has frequently shown that he has speed to win more races, but he has lacked consistency. Kato was the first Asia Talent Cup champion in 2014.
The Malaysian GP is the last of three races on consecutive weekends, after Japan and Australia. Following Sunday's races the paddock returns to Europe for the last race of the year at Valencia. Off-season testing commences two days later at the same track, then switches to Jerez in southern Spain.
Marc Marquez, Repsol Honda Team:
"We enjoyed a great victory in Australia. as me, the Repsol Honda Team and the bike are working very well together. Now we arrive at the last race of the triple, but it's not time to stop and relax. Sepang is another track where I think Yamaha will be fast, as will Ducati, but the target is to try and fight for victory again. We will see how the weekend goes and adapt as we need to."
Jorge Lorenzo, Repsol Honda Team:
"Sepang is a track where I have had good success in the past. Earlier this year I was not able to test in Sepang because of my training injury, but my team were there testing so already we have some ideas of what to do with the bike. Compared to Australia, the circuit in Malaysia should suit me more and I think we will be able to get back to where we were in Motegi. We will see how the weekend progresses there."
Cal Crutchlow, LCR Honda CASTROL:
"We never had the best feeling in winter tests at Sepang when we were at the learning stage with the 2019 bike. This weekend we will try to make the bike as calm as possible at Sepang. I'm looking forward to riding there and seeing how much we've improved it since pre-season testing. Then to Valencia, where after the last race we'll start working at building the 2020 bike."
Johann Zarco, LCR Honda IDEMITSU:
"For sure Sepang will be a different track compared to Phillip Island and it's a track with many good memories for me in MotoGP and Moto2. The confidence I got with the Honda at Phillip Island will help me start practice much better. I'll be able to enjoy the quality of the bike more, especially because Sepang will better suit the bike, with more braking points and fewer fast corners. It will be hot all weekend, so that's the mission for the weekend and the race – to control the heat and feel good in the heat. I have very good energy and I hope to capture a top ten, maybe even a top five."
Alex Marquez, Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS:
"I face this Grand Prix very motivated and with the desire to be able to enjoy riding the bike. We come from a difficult weekend with very difficult conditions. We hope that things will improve in Malaysia but it is usually a destination where you must be prepared for everything because the weather is very changeable. Sepang is a good circuit for me. Last year I made the pole position and I felt good, so this year I will try to do my best weekend there. The objective will be to try to be competitive in practice and finish the job in the race. The whole team is really looking forward to it so we will work hard to be fast and constant from the very first moment."
Thomas Luthi, Dynavolt Intact GP:
"Two races to go and anything is possible. The team has done such a great job coming back from a few issues with bike set-up earlier in the season, so I know I go into Sepang with a bike that can do the job. The thing will be to work well in the heat and conserve some energy for the race. It will be tough but we are ready for it."
Brad Binder, Red Bull KTM Ajo:
"Last year at Sepang we didn't have the best weekend, but everything is different this year – the engine, the chassis, the electronics – so we go into the weekend with an open mind. We have a lot of points to make up in the championship, so we've got to concentrate on getting the best result we can, that's all. I'm feeling strong and the bike is working really well now, so let's see what happens."
Somkiat Chantra, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
"I'm really happy to be racing in Malaysia this weekend – it was very cold at Phillip Island last week, so I think I will feel better in the heat at Sepang. I have good memories of Sepang from racing in the Asia Talent Cup, so I want to use my track knowledge from those races and work hard from the start of Friday to get the best possible result on Sunday."
Dimas Ekky Pratama, IDEMITSU Honda Team Asia:
"I feel more confident for this weekend – both for the weather and for the track, which I know from contesting the Moto2 race in 2017 and 2018. I think this will allow me to start the weekend in a better way, plus the support I will get from the locals and from visiting Indonesian fans will give me extra energy. We will work hard, hope for good weather and try to have a great race."
Lorenzo Dalla Porta, Leopard Racing:
"It will be a special feeling to go into this race as World Champion. I can't wait to get back out on track and enjoy working on my riding. The pressure is of but of course I still want to win. Last year I stood on the podium at Sepang with my team-mate, so let's hope we can repeat that this year!"
Tony Arbolino, VNE Snipers:
"The title is gone but there are still two races to go in which to get more good results. The aim at Sepang is simply – to get back to the podium after some real bad luck at the last few races. We know we have the speed and last year I was in the battle for the podium in Malaysia, so I think we can get back to the top."
Marcos Ramirez, Leopard Racing:
"It will be a big change going from Phillip Island to Sepang – dealing with the different weather and a very different track – but I am really looking forward to it. Now that Lorenzo has won the championship it's great for the team, but of course we still want more podiums and victories. Last year at Sepang I missed the podium by one second, so why not another race like Phillip Island?"
Ai Ogura, Honda Team Asia:
"I know Sepang from many races in the Asia Talent Cup. I have had good results there, I like the country and I think I will feel good this weekend. I will try my best because my last two races at Motegi and Phillip Island were the worst of the year for me. Therefore I want to refresh my mind for this Grand Prix and keep moving forward."
Kaito Toba, Honda Team Asia:
"I had a good feeling when I raced at last year's Malaysian GP, so I hope this will help us to have a good weekend at Sepang. Since the Thailand Grand Prix I have been feeling stronger on the bike once again, so I think we can have a strong race. We will work hard from Friday, focus and target a podium result."