Friday, November 15, 2019

Viñales outpaces Marquez to rule Sepang

Nov 03. 2019
Maverick Viñales
Maverick Viñales
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By THE NATION

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The number 12 keeps cool to turn the tables on Marquez as Dovizioso fights off Rossi for the podium
Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) put in a formidable performance at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix to destroy the opposition, picking up his second win of the 2019 season in emphatic style. The Spaniard raced clear of a recovering second-place Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team), with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) fending off Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) for P3.

It was Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) who somehow shot up for the holeshot from the second row, the Aussie bravely heading round the outside to take the lead from front row starter Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) as his teammate - and polesitter - Fabio Quartararo lost out. Marquez and Dovizioso, meanwhile, had made lightning starts to move through from P11 and P10 respectively, already well up in the fight at the front. At the very front though, Viñales was already stalking his prey.

It didn’t take long for the number 12 to strike, snatching the lead from Miller at Turn 11 as Marquez passed Morbidelli for P4. A frantic first lap wasn’t over yet though, as Dovizioso then battled Miller for P2 at Turn 14 and Turn 15 and both headed wide - allowing Marquez to pounce. He sat Miller up, but the Australian shot back past heading into Turn 1. That was only good news for Viñales, with the Spaniard already six tenths clear at the front.

Like Australia, Marquez said, he knew he had to try and get in behind the Yamaha to stay with him and it didn't take too long for him to finally dispatch Miller. Reeling Viñales in, however, looked like a serious mountain to climb this time around, with the gap well over a second. A tenth here and a tenth there got chipped away, but the number 12 machine in the lead had a healthy gap - and wasn't for slowing down.

It seemed, then, that the fight behind Marquez was going to remain the fight for third. Dovizioso grabbed it from Miller on Lap 4 and Rossi was threatening too, with 'The Doctor' finally dispatching Miller not too long after - and the Australian suffering an almighty moment as he hung on to his Ducati.

Shortly after that, things got even more heated between Miller and Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) at the final corner as Rins went for the inside and the two made contact. A front bit of fairing flew off the Suzuki and both stayed up, but they were forced to watch the fight for third between Dovizioso and Rossi start to peel off into the distance.

Even further into that distance, the timing screens signalled Viñales had broken his rivals. A second and a half became nearly three as a mistake became the only hurdle between him and the win, with Marquez equally safe in second. And a mistake never came from either, with Viñales pitch perfect to take his - and Yamaha's - second win of the season and bounce back from Australia in incredible style. Marquez took second and gained an impressive nine places on the way after his Q2 crash.

The fight for third, try as he might, would not go the way of Rossi. Rins had closed in to make matters even closer, and every advance 'The Doctor' made on the Ducati was repelled as the Suzuki also started to threaten. Dovizioso, as ever, was a demon on the brakes and the nine-time World Champion just couldn't make a move stick, although a few lunges at it made for a great battle between the two Italians. 'DesmoDovi' took it by a few tenths over the line, with Rossi forced to settle for fourth and Rins completing the top five. 

Miller, meanwhile, slipped back into the clutches of the Petronas Yamaha SRT duo and Johann Zarco (LCR Honda Idemitsu). Morbidelli came out on top in that fight for sixth and he was top Independent Team rider in the race on the team's home turf, and that combined with Quartararo's tougher day at the office in seventh nevertheless means Petronas Yamaha SRT are Independent Team Champions too. Miller took P8, and Zarco, sadly, didn't finish.

The Frenchman showed a big step forward in his second race weekend on a Honda, but it ended early after a pass from Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar) went awry, crashing Zarco out of the top ten. Mir would get a Long Lap Penalty for the incident, and that dropped him back below Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team), who took ninth.

Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) battled through to take P11, ahead of a close duel between Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) and Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) that went in favour of the Italian. Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda Team) beat Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) to 14th as the two completed the points.

And so we leave Sepang and the flyaways with a new man on top after a run of dominant performances from Marquez. Viñales couldn't be stopped in Malaysia, will the same be said at Valencia? Find out in two weeks as the paddock flies back to Europe for the season finale and we decide the team Champions and the top Independent Team rider of the year...

 
Maverick Viñales: "Honestly I have to say this is one of the times in life I've been the happiest. After the Australia crash I felt I won the race, because I attacked in my head...but then actually crashed. It was a bit of a disaster but we arrived here with everything clear, the bike was on a great level all weekend from FP1 since the first laps so we pushed, pushed and pushed and made a gap, which was important. I then tried to control the race which wasn't easy; especially mentally it was very tough, but I have to congratulate the team because all weekend they did an awesome job."
 
Race results:
1 - Maverick Viñales (SPA - Yamaha) 40'14.632

2 - Marc Marquez (SPA - Honda) +3.059

3 - Andrea Dovizioso (ITA - Ducati) +5.611

Top Independent Team rider:

6 - Franco Morbidelli (ITA - Yamaha) +9.993

 
Marquez took second - but gained nine places on the way
Viñales salutes the crowd after his second win of the season
Dovizioso held firm against Rossi, defending hard to keep third
Morbidelli on his way to top Independent Team rider and top Independent Team on Petronas home turf
Podium L-R: Marquez, Viñales and Dovizioso
 
Binder wins the race, Marquez takes the title in Malaysia
The South African takes a final stand but it's not quite enough to deny Marquez the crown
In the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) did all he could to take the Championship down to the wire against Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) as the South African won for the fourth time this season, but it wasn’t quite enough. Marquez took second under immense pressure to wrap up the crown, with another key rival, Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP), completing the podium.

It was Binder who took the holeshot, the KTM rider slicing straight across off the line to cover Marquez and staking an early claim on the win. But the number 73 stayed calm and retained second, a few important places ahead of Lüthi as the Swiss rider failed to gain from fifth on the grid. 

Early on it seemed the front two had the pace to escape, but a moment for Marquez at the final corner was a definite warning shot as the Spaniard had to fight off front row starter Nagashima to keep second. That he did, however, and he set off on the chase behind Binder once again before the South African made an error of his own.

An open door on Lap 3 saw Binder relinquish the lead AND let Nagashima through as Marquez was left in some clear air at the front, but with the tables turned the number 41 was equally able to cut the gap. And when the pass came, it was pretty brutal. After a quick look at the final corner that Marquez repelled, Binder attacked at Turn 1 and pushed both slightly wide – emerging on top as the number 73 was forced back into second.

The cat and mouse would be played out in pace from then on, with Binder able to stay a few tenths ahead and Marquez solid in second, holding a similar gap back to Lüthi. The Swiss rider had very much arrived on the scene, nipping past Nagashima after an error from the Japanese rider. 

The three men at the top of the standings were now in their own private battle, and none would budge. A bit of time gained here became some lost there, and all that was left for each to do was stay calm under the pressure. Binder did that to cross the line for victory number four of the year, but Marquez was equally steadfast. The number 73 took podium number 10 to crown himself Moto2™ World Champion as Lüthi took another rostrum in third, agonisingly close to keeping the battle alive to Valencia.

Fourth went the way of Vierge after a solid ride, with Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) completing the top five for an improvement on a tough Saturday. Iker Lecuona (monday.com American Racing) beat Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) to sixth, with Nagashima ultimately crossing the line in eighth. Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) and last year’s winner, Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), completed the top ten. 

Augusto Fernandez’ (Flexbox HP 40) tougher run of form continued in P11, ahead of Nicolo Bulega (Sky Racing Team VR46), who was top rookie. Fellow debutants Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up), Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Marco Bezzecchi (Red Bull KTM Tech 3) all crashed out, so the fight for Rookie of the Year goes down to Valencia with ‘Diggia’ ahead. 

Mattia Pasini (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) was 13th, with Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) able to take P14 despite an incident with Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2). Dominique Aegerter (MV Agusta Temporary Forward) completed the points.

The throne has now been taken and the king of 2019 crowned, so Valencia is a chance for him to race without pressure – and his rivals to hit back one more time. Who will take second overall this season? And who will take the Rookie of the Year title? Find out in two weeks.

 
Brad Binder: "We did everything we had to do, everything within our power we accomplished today. We knew it was an outside chance coming here because we knew it would need a lot of bad luck for the other guys. At the end of the day we did our job and that's that, to walk away with the win today was incredible and we'll just keep building for the future.

"I almost crashed, as I went for the front brake I didn't realise how much less front grip there was than all weekend and I locked the front wheel, I was lucky to stay on! But all in all I can't complain, it was a good race and I did my best. It was mistake free except that one...oh and I also almost crashed on the last lap to be fair!"

 
Race results:
1 - Brad Binder (RSA - KTM) 38'07.843

2 - Alex Marquez (SPA - Kalex) +0.758

3 - Tom Lüthi (SWI - Kalex) +2.683

Podium L-R: Marquez, Binder and Lüthi
 
Dalla Porta wins another Moto3™ classic scrap at Sepang
The reigning Champion escapes the melee in Malaysia as Garcia and Masia impress to complete the podium
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