Morbidelli brings hot form to scorching Sepang
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS riders Franco Morbidelli and Álex Márquez are hoping they can launch a renewed two-pronged attack on the podium when the penultimate round of the 2016 Moto2 World Championship gets underway in Malaysia.
Morbidelli and Márquez experienced contrasting fortunes during last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, but both are determined to complete the punishing flyaway triple-header schedule on a high note at the Sepang International Circuit near Kuala Lumpur.
Morbidelli arrives in the Far East oozing confidence after he came within a whisker of capturing his first World Championship victory at the end of an engrossing race-long duel with Thomas Lüthi at Phillip Island.
The Italian was defeated by just 0.010s in Australia and his startling podium form of six top three finishes in the last nine races moved him ahead of Sam Lowes into fourth in the overall standings.
Márquez is hoping to make a swift return to action in Malaysia after he was unfortunately forced to withdraw from the Phillip Island round following a heavy and unlucky qualifying spill.
The 20-year-old was left with numerous bumps, bruises and aches following his high-speed accident in Australia, but he has spent the short time since his crash last Saturday dedicating all his effort on regaining full fitness.
The Spaniard has never taken a podium finish at the 5.5km Sepang International Circuit and that is a record he is determined to end in Sunday’s 19-lap battle.
This weekend’s action will undoubtedly be a severe test of rider stamina, machine durability and tyre wear, with the heat and humidity in Malaysia meaning the action unfolds in the most extreme conditions of the campaign.
Friday’s first practice will give Morbidelli and Márquez their first opportunity to evaluate new asphalt at the Sepang International Circuit, plus modified camber at the final turn, which has been significantly altered to improve overtaking opportunities.
The most extensive renovations since the Sepang Interational Circuit first opened in 1999 have also been carried out earlier this year. The revamp includes the re-profiling of eight other turns to help with the flow of the track, better drainage and improved run-off areas.
“Last weekend’s second place in Australia gave me another really big confidence boost. I crashed three times in practice and qualifying in Phillip Island and two were unexplainable, which can dent your confidence a little. But I kept my focus and the team made sure they gave me a lot of support, even if I gave them a lot of work to do repairing my bike! The team always keeps me calm and they trust in the job that I can do, so when I make a mistake we recover fast and I have to thank them a lot for being so fantastic for me. The key after each crash was jumping back on the bike and immediately recovering a good feeling. I was really close to the victory in Australia but in that race it wasn’t meant to be, so we must use our current speed to try and go one better this weekend in Malaysia. We are in good shape both mentally and physically with podium finishes in three races in a row for the first time in my career. We know we can expect hot and humid conditions in Malaysia and I am prepared for that, but the one key thing we must adapt to quickly is the new asphalt.”
“I am looking forward to riding in Malaysia so I can quickly put the disappointment of not racing in Phillip Island behind me. I think more or less one week is sufficient time to recover but it is important to be as close to 100% fit as possible because Sepang is one of the toughest races for the body in the World Championship. It is fast and flowing and that puts a lot of stress on your body, but you also have to cope with the heat and humidity. The conditions couldn’t be more different to those we experienced in Australia and we also have to understand quickly how to set the bike up for the new surface.”