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The 2018 Shell Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix is one GP that all fans from around the globe should attend. As you walk the circuit, you get a feel for the speed that the riders carry in and out of corners, how the tyres can be worn easily, where arm pump is evident especially at the hair pin for certain riders and why the storms that arrive at the circuit cause havoc. On Friday afternoon, the lightning was cracking all around us, the rain was torrential and the paddock empty as everyone ran for shelter. Sepang is a track that tests your physical stamina and mindset. With the sweat dropping down from my eyebrows, photographing at various turns and listening to debriefs, it is interesting to witness the change in emotions from one race to the next. For example, at Phillip Island, Andrea Iannone was smiling from ear to ear, talkative and enjoying his time. At Sepang, he was quite miserable and admitted that his feelings with the bike were very bad. It was a complete reverse of character. For sure, Iannone is sad to be leaving Suzuki when the sweet spot of performance has been discovered. It is never easy for the team or the rider involved in the relationship breakup.

Credits: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

As we cross over to the technical aspects of the sport, there are fans out there who would love to know what it is like standing up close and personal with a MotoGP bike. Well, let me describe it for you from my point of view. It is a beautiful sight and the sound of the bikes is one that vibrates your eardrums and increases your heart rate significantly. As you stand along the main straight, the power and sound of the bikes pulsates through your body. At times, you have to utilise ear plugs because the echo is incredibly strong. The machines are complex and intriguing to analyse from the electronics, braking and seat positioning. Modifications like Jorge Lorenzo’s fuel tank and where they feel most comfortable with or without small aerodynamic fairings are important elements, we general public don’t think about. In addition to this, the use of the leg dangle to balance the bike and also control the braking has become more predominant at Sepang. What Rossi once started has become a useful technique for others to utilise. The main riders I have witnessed utilise it this weekend are Maverick Vinales, Jack Miller, Marc Marquez, Valentino Rossi, Jorge Lorenzo, Danilo Petrucci and Andrea Iannone. They are making use of it within various sectors of the track and at varying speeds.

Credits: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

The fans at Sepang are fanatical with merchandise all over their bodies. They sport face painting, costume suits, custom made nail art, plenty of motorcycle accessories and helmets and parts are even available for purchase at the venue. The Marc Marquez fans went wild upon his 80th pole position, a superb achievement at such a young age. However, Marquez was penalised after riding slow on the racing line which impeded Iannone and started the Grand Prix from seventh position or as he saw it “Level 7”. Due to the heavy monsoonal rain on Saturday, the race was brought forward by two hours with a start at 1pm local time. In order to avoid the chaotic rain and have a successful event, MotoGP Sporting Director Carlos Ezpeleta amongst others made the right call within a stressful period of time. The choice was brilliant because when lights went out on Sunday, the temperatures were through the roof! My heart rate at one stage was in excess of 133 beats per minute standing in the blazing sun.

Credits: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

As the race started, 103,984 people watched on with their eyes glued to the bikes coming down in to the turn one. It was Rossi, Marquez, Zarco and Rins charging forward. The Rossi fans at turn one were loud, chanting his name lap after lap until with four laps to go he crashed right in front of them. We thought the Doctor was going to get his picture perfect Malaysian victory though it was not meant to be. Marquez worked hard to overcome Rossi by remaining smooth, consistent, changing his lines and being focused. He put the pressure back on Rossi when it mattered the most and as a result enabled Repsol Honda to win the constructors Championship for 2018. No matter what anyone says, Rossi still has the goods and will no doubt replay those last four laps in his head over and over again. Sepang is a reminder that the Yamaha machinery can perform when the conditions and track are right.

Credits: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

Marquez: “It was a very hard race first of all because we start from 7th place. Starting from the third row, it never worked in the past. It was really difficult because the first lap was good not the best one in my career. I saw Valentino was pushing hard from the beginning. I was riding like qualifying practice. When I overtake Johann, I overheat my tyres, I struggle and start to feel uncomfortable. I saved the bike in the last turn. I say, cool down, be smart and understand the tyre situation and then step by step I start to feel better. I was riding for instinct and riding with what I feel was on the limit. Rossi was on the limit too. He did a mistake because he was a little wide and crashed. From that point, I say ok, time to finish the race and enjoy the last laps. This weekend, Yamaha was extremely fast. When I was riding behind Johann and Valentino, they have amazing grip and acceleration. I do not know the performance of the tyres in the last laps. They had really good acceleration and from that point, I understand the limit”. Marc is very proud because usually he would struggle at this circuit Marquez: “This weekend I feel everything more relaxed, natural way and it was nice to win in Thailand and here. They have a very important market here”.

 

Credits: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

Rins: “I am very happy. As you know the race was very difficult. We lost a lot of time to the Ducati’s with their speed and turning hard. The first part of the race, Valentino and Marc they go. Lap by lap, when I was trying to catch Pedrosa, I was concentrated and pushing to the limit. We lost time behind Pedrosa. We arrive first to Johann and this is very important. Suzuki factory, they are doing a really good job in the last part of the season. We have a very competitive bike.” Rins is proving that in his second year, he is a force to be reckoned with. A very talented young Spaniard on circuit.

Credits: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

Zarco: “Finishing third is a fantastic present. To be in a position as first independent rider is good. Same points as Rins, one in front can beat the top five in the final Championship. Main target must be first independent rider and if two things in one, that’s great”. With Valencia next up, Marquez is looking forward to celebrating with newly crowned World Champions Pecco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin. As Marquez says, we need to work in the pre-season as the competitors are coming closer and sometimes are better. Time to shower and enjoy the time off before the final race of the year.

Credits: Myanna Wedes & Patrick Wedes

About The Author

Myanna Wedes

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.