It is with mixed feelings that the MotoGP tour heads from Japan to Malaysia for the second of three overseas races in three weeks. On the one hand, Sepang International Circuit, which the teams also visit for off-season testing, is a sort of home away from home for the championship, a popular, diverse track in a warm and tropical locale. On the other hand, it’s impossible to forget that it was the site of Marco Simoncelli’s tragic accident one year ago. Those in the MotoGP paddock will gather on Thursday afternoon to pay homage to the Italian, who remains very close to the hearts of everyone in the racing world.
Only one-sixth of the season now remains, and the Ducati Team hopes to improve the performance of the Desmosedici during these final three races. Compared to recent rounds, Malaysia, where the team has tallied three victories over the years, will offer riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden the additional challenge of high air and track temperatures, which will test the endurance of riders and tyres alike.
“We’ll see what awaits us at Sepang, because we didn’t do very well there during the winter tests. Still, many months have passed since then, and now with the new frame and swingarm, the bike is better. The race and the whole weekend will certainly be very difficult because of the high temperatures, which present a challenge for both the bike and the riders. That said, it’s obviously not our first time, and we know what to expect. We’ll try to do our best.”
“Motegi is behind us, and hopefully Malaysia we can do a better result and have a better weekend. We need to be able to start better on Friday. We do have a few new parts to try this weekend that may help, and hopefully my wrist will be stronger now that it’s been three weeks since I hurt it. The track has less downhill braking, so it might not cause me as much pain as it did last weekend. The season is really getting close to the end, and we need to try our best to do a couple of good results before it’s over.”
“We come to Malaysia expecting a challenging weekend due to the high temperatures, because as always, heat tests the riders’ conditioning while also affecting the bike’s setup. Technically speaking, it’s a track where, apart from a slow hairpin, there are no stop-and-go sections like those at Motegi, where we suffered on acceleration and on the exits from the tight corners. There are two long straightaways where we can take advantage of our engine’s horsepower. It will be important to preserve the tyres by finding a setup that enables us to have a steady performance for the entire race. It’s something that we’ve been able to do in recent races but that will be more difficult here at Sepang because of the high temperatures.”