MICHELIN Power Rain tyres were again put through their MotoGP™ paces as a massive downpour shortly before the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix soaked the track leading to a wet race which saw Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) splash to victory.
Torrential rain fell over the 5,543m Sepang International Circuit 30-minutes before the start of the race, causing frantic action in the pits as all the teams were forced to change from MICHELIN Power Slick tyres to their wet counterparts. Although the heavy rain subsided, the track was thoroughly wet and stayed in that condition for the whole 20-laps, making conditions extremely difficult for all concerned. This was due to reduced adhesion from the surface because of the amount of dirty water on top of the rubber that had been laid in scorching hot conditions on the previous day and in today’s two Moto3™ and Moto2™ races.
As the lights changed to signal the beginning of the race, Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) got a great start from the third row of the grid challenging pole-setter Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) and Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) to the first corner. Zarco, using the medium front and soft rear configuration of rain tyres, got there first and led for the next eight-laps before coming under-pressure and then being passed by Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team). The Spaniard then looked to control the race from the front as he tried to make a break, with only his team-mate Dovizioso for company. The duo had both chosen the medium front and rear pairing of tyres and used the grip provided by the MICHELIN Power Rain tyres to push at the front in the tricky conditions, with Dovizioso setting the fastest lap of the race in the process. A mistake on the final turn by Lorenzo on lap-16 then gave Dovizioso the opportunity to grab the lead, which he duly did and held on until the chequered flag and take his sixth victory of the year, giving Ducati its first one-two of the season in the process. Zarco placed third, a result which saw him as First Independent Rider and secure that title for 2017.
Marquez was next to cross the line, a result which leaves him 21-points ahead of Dovizioso in the championship and means that the title-race will now go to the final event to decide this year’s champion. Fifth was Pedrosa, with Danilo Petrucci (OCTO Pramac Racing) getting up to sixth after arguably the ride of the day, as the Italian was forced to start from pit-lane after all the other riders had started, because his bike had an issue on the warm-up lap and he had to get back to the pits and use his spare machine. Seventh was Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP), with Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) coming home in eighth. Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) and Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) rounded out the top-10.
Despite the threat of heavy rain for today’s event, 97,457 fans filled the stands around the circuit, making it the largest race crowd so far recorded at Sepang and earlier in the day they witnessed Franco Morbidelli crowned Moto2 World Champion, taking the title before he moves to MotoGP in 2018.
Michelin and MotoGP now draws a veil over the three-week Asian-Pacific tour, which has seen some incredible racing at three very different venues. The whole paddock now heads to Valencia in Spain where the title will be decided on Sunday 12th November.
Andrea Dovizioso — (Ducati Team):
“It was such a difficult race because the grip was less than it was in the wet on Friday. Maybe this was because of the amount of rubber on the ground and it took a while for me to get a rhythm. The tyre did not drop during the race, but you had to play with the limit because the grip was very low from the track. We managed in a good way and our bike in the wet with the Michelin rain tyres works so good.”
Nicolas Goubert — Deputy Director, Technical Director and Supervisor of the MotoGP Programme:
“Over such a long track and in very tricky conditions we saw lap-times of only just over 10% more than what the guys were doing in the dry and today’s surface was extremely compromised from the amount of rubber laid in yesterday’s practices – where track temperatures were over 50°C – and in the two races earlier today, and also probably from the dust that was in the rain that fell. This made grip a real issue from the asphalt and we are pleased how our tyres behaved in these conditions.
“In the dry yesterday we saw some fantastic lap-times and all the guys reported high levels of grip and if we had had a dry race today all three compounds would most probably have been used, again showing that the variations we bring can be used by all the riders. These three weeks have seen some great racing and we have collected a huge amount of information, which we will now work on and use to move forward in any ways we deem necessary. Now it’s on to Valencia and the final race where we will see the title dec