The humidity is rising, the sun blasting the circuit tarmac with teams and riders sweating all day long. This is just your typical day at the Sepang race circuit and even storms cause havoc from time to time. The 2018 Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix is in full swing with track walks taking place, familiarisation of the circuit sectors and questions as to how the tyres will be performing this weekend. Sepang will work your core muscles and make you lose kilograms of water and weight! Some riders balance out the heat with ice baths in the back of their garages or hospitality boxes. Picture a small inflatable swimming pool filled up with icy cold water and jumping in after being track at in excess of 50°C. Aleix Espargaro is one particular rider who utilises icoolsport which is a supplier of portable and fixed ice bath systems. The temperature outside 32°C and the pool 12°C. Very interesting dynamics when you assess how often the body of a rider is subject to a variety of weather systems.

Home town hero Hafizh Syahrin from the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 MotoGP team is excited to race for the first time in the premier class at the Sepang circuit. He has previous experience in Moto2 and will utilise his track knowledge to the best of his ability. Syahrin will be looking to challenge himself at the circuit and put up a fight for a top ten finish. The Malaysian fans are passionate and will be decked out in local gear as well as some of their favourite riders: Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo and Marc Marquez to name a few. The scooters and motorcycles will jam the car parks full whilst others walk the distance to enter the circuit. Regardless of the weather, the fans will be there and it is excellent to witness such a fanatical display of support. Syahrin: “I just want to say thank you, first time in here with big names. In Phillip Island, I did not expect to do a good result because in Moto2, many years I struggle to be there. From Asia, arriving in cool weather, I always scared by the weather and wind and slow. When I jumped to MotoGP, it was different and I surprised myself. I am excited for my home Grand Prix. At the moment, I want to give my best to my team who has always believed in me and worked hard. Small steps, we improve. After Aragon, we find something on the bike in terms of set up, we improve on braking and turning of the bike.”

Credit: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

Out of the entire grid, Marc Marquez wants to recover after failing to finish at the Australian Grand Prix due to damage from Johann Zarco running up the back of his Honda Repsol machine. The Spanish World Champion wants to win as much as possible before he focuses on 2019 testing at Valencia. To achieve zero points at Phillip Island was a disaster and Marquez showcased plenty of anger and frustration. Sepang is a circuit where Marquez pushes to the limit and where the world has witnessed him save the Repsol Honda multiple times. To the day, some ask “how does he do it?”. The more the bike slides, the better! Marquez: “Phillip Island was a shame because we had a good race pace. In that first corner, we can feel very lucky. It was a very strange crash. When the wind is pushing, it is true that he did not stop the bike and I went a bit wide. I did not expect him there. Luckily, we are both ok. Now, we need to think about Malaysia. We will see and continue the same way. On Sunday at Phillip Island we were in good shape. We try to keep the performance at the Malaysian Grand Prix. I mean, the pre-season has been very good here but now it is completely different. We want to start in a good way in FP1, work hard and after warm up, we will see if we can fight for the podium or victory. You never know”.


Credit: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

In contrast to Marquez, the Ducati riders are always considered very strong at the Malaysian circuit. It will be interesting to see if this continues with Jorge Lorenzo attempting to ride this weekend and Andrea Dovizioso feeling like he is in a good way with the Ducati at the end of 2018 and looking forward to 2019. Dovizioso: “The bike is better because every practice, we are stronger than last year but still we could not fight for the victory. From my side, I think I am good in some kind of tracks and better at other tracks. I have margins to improve my position on the bike, the riding style and at this particular track. We have to continue to improve the bike if we want to fight for the World Championship. I remember when I had my first MotoGP podium in Malaysia, it was a strong fight with Nicky Hayden. It was my first year in MotoGP and until the last corner we were braking very hard and I was able to get in front of Nicky. It was a good feeling. It was a good moment and I think this track is really good for me, though in the past, we did not make good results in the dry. Last two years we won in the wet. It will be very important to race in the dry. I will be interested to see our speed.” Only eight days ago, Lorenzo had surgery on his injured wrist and looks well after several weeks of rehabilitation. Lorenzo: “Well, I feel better than Motegi some weeks ago. The operation went well and for sure I feel more strong and powerful. Yesterday, I took the cast off my wrist and did not move the wrist so the mobility is not very good. In two or three days, we need to speed up the recovery and mobility. It will be difficult. This track is hard braking. I am going to try and let’s see if I am able to race for the whole weekend. Firstly, I want to go back to the bike because it has been a lot of weeks that I have not been riding. You lose practice and skills. It is about the general condition. I want to advance any result and performance”.


Credit: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

Maverick Vinales had a superb weekend in Australia and is really happy. You can feel his positivity at a distance and the authenticity of his smile. Vinales: “It has been nice, we enjoy a lot with the team. You know, we can go better. We are more relaxed, try new things and let’s see if this helps Yamaha to improve. Yamaha have not won since 2010 at this circuit which is quite the amount of time. Valentino Rossi has been strong in the past at Sepang and we think Vinales might be able to improve on his results this year. “Honestly, I came here without a mental result. I try to be concentrated, be in the front and finish the season on a good point. It is very important to not lose the motivation now and build a good 2019”. Speaking of motivation, it appears that people out there think Andrea Iannone sometimes lacks motivation and when a rocket is fired at him, he goes faster and faster. The journey with Suzuki like Yamaha with Vinales has been turbulent. Iannone: “I think sometimes we lose a bit of motivation when the moment is difficult. Step by step with strong work, I recover and we recover. For sure, I recover my motivation well and I continue like this. I want to keep going because from Japan especially we are very close. In Valencia, I want to close the season in the best way. Sepang is a very good track but every year it is different so when I arrive in MotoGP with Ducati it was a difficult moment but in 2016, I battled for the podium and came back from braking my back. Last year was a difficult race in wet conditions. This year, we will try to improve my result”. Iannone had every in stitches with his comments around his five essential items he takes with him wherever he goes. The item that sent the media, riders and teams into hysterics was the fact he carries ‘condoms’ with him. He was being honest and answered the question in true Maniac Joe style. Time for the bikes to warm up as the first sessions get underway. Enjoy the race weekend!

About The Author

Myanna has an incredible grasp and knowledge of the sport in detail and continues to secure lead stories every week. She is in constant contact with team and rider media management. She is an admitted lawyer with two degrees and is currently writing a biography on Alan Jones MBE 1980 F1 World Champion. She is a fond lover of two wheel motorsport, predominantly MotoGP, Moto2 and Moto3.