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Race report: Sepang GP

Photo: MotoGP

SEPANG, Malaysia, October 30, 2016 – There was some very strange racing at the penultimate round of the world motorcycle championships in Malaysia, but the Moto GP event was business as usual – in fact, better than usual – for Andrea Dovizioso and the Ducati team. The Italian took his second-ever Moto GP win and Ducati’s second of the season in difficult mixed conditions.

Dovizioso’s only previous win was at Silverstone in Britain in pouring rain in 2009; this one came on a wet but slowly-drying track that caught out many of his opposition. Still, the crashes were behind him, and Dovi rode a smart and controlled race for a deserved victory. The result also moved him from seventh to fifth in the championship standings.

“It was very important for me to win a race this year,”, said Dovi. “I’ve been trying for so long and I’ve come close on several occasions, so satisfaction for today’s result is truly immense. In the first half of the race I could not push too hard, but I didn’t give up, I didn’t make any mistakes and at the right time I passed both Iannone and Rossi and set my own pace.”

Valentino Rossi took second for Yamaha after leading several laps, saying his front tire had gone off. The slow-motion cameras showed his brake lever right back to the bar on one occasion, so perhaps brake issues also had something to do with his dramatic slowing after Dovizioso got past. Second secured him second in the championship, his main goal this weekend. “Securing second place in the championship is important, the battle with Lorenzo is always very intense and we always arrive at the last race. When you beat a rider that‘s very strong, like Jorge, it‘s great!”

The final podium went to Rossi’s rival and team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who was gifted his podium by the crashes of Iannone, Honda’s Marc Marquez, and LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow, and was honest enough to admit that he’d have been fifth or sixth without their misfortunes.

Not far behind were the Avintia Ducati team-mates of Hector Barbera and Loris Baz, both having excellent races, fourth being Barbera’s best-ever Moto GP result. He looked a lot more comfortable on his two-year-old Ducati than he had subbing on the factory bike for the injured Iannone in the last two races.

Rounding out the top 10 were Suzuki’s Maverick Vinales – “Although sixth place is not so bad, I’m disappointed with the race result … We have made many improvements on the machine and now we have reached a positive competitiveness in dry conditions, but the progress we’ve made in the wet is not enough” – Alvaro Bautista on the first Aprilia, Aussie Jack Miller on his Estella Galicia Honda, Pol Espargaro on the first Tech 3 Yamaha home, and Danilo Petrucci for the Pramac Ducati team. His team-mate Scott Redding only managed 15th, so it’s looking more and more like the intra-team rivalry to get an updated Ducati for 2017 is going in Petrucci’s direction.

Moto 2

Basically, the Moto 2 contest went to the Johann Zarco who’s been absent for the last few races. The dominant champion in 2015, Zarco started strong and then went into the doldrums mid-season, only the poor results of his closest competitors keeping him ahead in his quest for a second title. But this weekend he destroyed everyone in qualifying, being nearly two seconds faster, then bided his time in the race and took a late lead as the track dried and disappeared into the distance.

Italian Franco Morbidelli was second after leading most of the race, ahead of Jonas Folger. Folger will be joining Zarco in the Tech 3 Moto GP team in 2017.

It’s the first time anyone has successfully defended a Moto 2 championship, and oddly enough the first time a French rider has won two world titles. Zarco was seriously choked up in parc fermé, barely able to answer the questions passed to him.

He did his famous back-slip from the tire walls on his cool-off lap, but for the first time had a double do it with him – another person dressed in his leathers and helmet joined him for the flip, then the two rode back to the pits together!

Moto 3

We said last week that the Australian Moto 3 race reinforced all the perceptions of the class as the butcher block of racing. But the Malaysian race eclipsed that, with a complete demolition derby seeing no fewer than 17 of the 31 starters crashing! Four managed to remount and continued, but still – that has to have set some sort of record for carnage. Fortunately, none of the riders appeared seriously injured.

The win went to Francesco “Pecca” Bagnaia, his second of the year and of his career, and the third for the Indian Mahindra team. Jakub Korfeil of the Czech Republic was a distant second on a Honda, while Dutch rookie Bo Bendsnyder captured third on a KTM, his second podium in his first year in the class.

Moto GP Championship Standings after 17 of 18 races

  1. Marc Marquez, Spain, Repsol Honda, 278 points (World Champion)
  2. Valentino Rossi, Italy, Movistar Yamaha, 236
  3. Jorge Lorenzo, Spain, Movistar Yamaha, 208
  4. Maverick Vinales, Spain, Team Suzuki Ecstar, 191
  5. Andrea Dovizioso, Italy, Ducati Team, 162
  6. Dani Pedrosa, Spain, Repsol Honda, 155
  7. Cal Crutchlow, U.K., LCR Honda, 141
  8. Pol Espargaro, Spain, Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 124
  9. Hector Barbera, Spain, Avintia Racing Ducati, 97

10-. Andrea Iannone, Italy, Ducati Team, 96

Next and last race November 13, Valencia, Spain

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