Written by Owen Bradley, Edited by Sharifah Zaqreeztrina
MotoGP returns to the iconic, modern classic of a circuit, the Sepang International Circuit which has hosted the Malaysian Grand Prix since 1991. The battle of Francesco Bagnaia and Jorge Martin is likely going to continue right until the final flag wave in Valencia, but with just three races remaining, the Malaysian GP is set to give us a pivotal moment in the championship.
Valentino Rossi holds the record for most wins at this circuit, with seven total victories across all classes, and five in the Premier Class. Rossi’s protege Francesco Bagnaia will be looking to score big this weekend, with just 13 points in front of Jorge Martin. But with 2023 introducing a Sprint race at every single event, it means there are more points on offer each weekend than there have been compared to every other season.
Yamaha: Starting off with Factory Yamaha, they have not won a single Grand Prix this season. If this year concludes with them remaining winless, it will be their first winless season since 2003. 20 years later, and with a certain Italian missing, this would be another major blow to the Japanese outfit, who have struggled significantly since the 2018 season to deliver a fully optimised and adaptable bike.
Fabio Quartararo did win the 2021 World Championship, but lost to Bagnaia after leading by 91-Points in 2022. This year, he’s been struggling to even make it to the podium, let alone challenge for a win in a meaningful way. It’s expected that Yamaha will struggle and have more pain to get through, before they can develop a bike good enough for a victory.
The Championship Battle: Bagnaia vs Martin has been the story of the season. With Martin on the Pramac Ducati as the underdog, the Rocky Balboa going up against Apollo Creed, while the Factory Ducati of Bagnaia, is being tested to the limit. Martin has smelt blood in the water, whilst Bagnaia has made mistakes throughout the year, crashing out multiple times even from the lead, Martin has slowly and steadily built his points.
We reach a point in the season now, where Jorge Martin is a genuine threat to this Championship, and shows no signs of slowing down just to appease the Factory Ducati executives. The Championship fight is on, and much like other seasons, notably the 2015 Malaysian GP and what that did to the championship between Rossi and Lorenzo - You do not want to miss this!
Malaysia Memories: Whilst many will be looking forward to this thrilling weekend that has set up a titanic championship battle, it is crucial not to forget the past. Marco Simoncelli, a man who set the MotoGP world alight with his sense of humour and incredible riding ability, died here in 2011. A moment that does haunt MotoGP as a brand, and all the fans as well, but a memory that should never just be forgotten. It is always important to remember what happened and learn from it.
MotoGP has done a remarkable job when it comes to rider safety in the Premier Class in recent years. However in the junior categories of Moto3 and Moto2, we haven’t been quite so lucky. A circuit which has produced a fatality in fairly recent memory, should not be taken for granted. Let’s enjoy the weekend as we do for every other race event, but keep in mind that these riders truly are risking their lives, even more with the Sprint races too.
Lap Record - 1:57.790, Jorge Martin 2022
Sepang International Circuit is one which naturally produces thrilling racing, a long straight down to the sweeping hairpin of Turn One, and opportunities to sneak back up the inside into the flowing Turn Two, before we dance around the completely flat Turn Three, and approach the slow and tight Turn Four.
Climbing up a slight incline, before a blind left-hander of Turn Five, and then a sharp and fast Right-Hander of Six. The riders get a slight break, preparing themselves and their braking points for the double right-handers of Seven and Eight, being patient on the throttle as to not run wide on the exit of Eight, as this heavily impacts the medium-sized straight, on the run to the slow left hairpin of Nine.
Climbing up a steeper incline, the riders go through the tough double rights of 10 and 11, with riders taking caution into 11, trying not to run wide on the exit and outside of track limits. A short and fast run into the quick Turn 12 left - before a long and gruelling right-hander that seems to extend further and further each lap, testing the riders physicality.
A long straight which sharpens up by the time the riders hit the brakes going into the final corner, a long hairpin where they must maximise a great exit, as this is the run down to the finish line. That is a lap of the Sepang International Circuit.
Look out for overtaking into Turns 1 and 2, with a potential follow-on into Turns 3 and 4. Another great place for conventional overtaking, is into the slow hairpin of Turn 9, where the riders then follow side-by-side coming out, into the fast double-right hander. The long and tough Right-Hander at 13 is one which has had at least one major iconic moment, and one which is difficult but rewarding to overtake at. Finally, the very final corner is also another one which will likely see some last lap overtakes and desperate moves, and also some tight line defences with a compromise for the exit and run to the line. This is a circuit which has so much to offer.
Ducati Dominance is what I believe we’re about to see. Long straights, fast flowing corners mixed with hairpin corners that maximise exit speed. With Ducati’s electronics assisting them for exit speed, and their natural engine power - it’s going to be the Ducati’s of Bagnaia, Martin, Bezzecchi, Marini and Zarco who will likely be racing at the front.
This year, it’s extremely tough to predict what will happen. I do believe Jorge Martin will be looking to come back much stronger this weekend, he has the lap record here as well. I’m predicting a Jorge Martin victory in the Sprint Race, with Bagnaia crashing out of the Sprint and Marco Bezzecchi fighting Martin to the flag.
However in the Grand Prix, I think Francesco Bagnaia will learn from the crash, and will be massively re-energised to fight back. Bagnaia will take the Main Grand Prix, with Martin close behind in P2. Although due to the Sprint race points, Martin will edge ever closer to Bagnaia going into Qatar.
Yamaha will continue to struggle, with both drivers finishing outside of the points. Marc Marquez will struggle to keep up with the Ducati’s on these longer straights, and thus will finish a lonely P5.
As for Sepang International Circuit, it is one which I personally believe Formula One should be racing at, and hopefully a thrilling MotoGP race where F1 is absent from our TV Screens this weekend, should put the circuit on a platform to showcase what motorsport is all about.
How to Watch:
ALBANIA - Tring Sport 3
ARGENTINA - ESPN+
AUSTRALIA and PAPUA GUINEA - Fox Sports , Kayo Sports and Foxtel Now10 Network
AUSTRIA - Servus TV/ servusmotogp.com
BALCANS, BOSNIA, CROATIA, SERBIA, MACEDONIA and MONTENEGRO - SportKlub (SK2 HD, SK3 HD)
BALTICS, ESTONIA, LITHUANIA, LATVIA - Viasat (3 SportTV 2 HD)
BELGIUM - RTBF
BRAZIL - ESPN4
BRUNEI - SpoTV Now
BULGARIA - MAXSport
CAMBODIA - SpoTV Now
CANADA - REV TV, TSN+
CHINA - Zhibo TVE Surfing UHDStar Sports /Star Sports 2
CYPRUS - Cytavision Sports
CZECH REP. - Nova Sport1 / Nova Sports2
DENMARK - TV3 Sport and/or TV3 Max
EAST TIMOR - SpoTV Now
EL SALVADOR - Ch 4 Corporación Salvadoreña
FINLAND - Viaplay
FRANCE - Canal+/Canal+ Sports/My CanalC8
GEORGIA - Silknet
GERMANY - Servus TV
GREECE - OTE Sport
GIBRALTAR - Gibtelecom
HONG KONG - PCCW NOW TV - SpoTV
HUNGARY - Arena4
INDIA - Sport18
INDONESIA - Trans7MNC Vision / KVision/ UseeTV /Maxstream - SpoTV
ISRAEL - 5 SPORT /5 PLUS/ 5 LIVE
ITALY - SKY Italy8 TV
JAPAN - G+Hulu https://www.happyon.jp/NTVNittele BS
KAZAKHSTAN - Qsport
KOREA - SpoTV
KOSOVO - Art Motion
LAOS - SpoTV Now
LUXEMBURG - RTL
MACAU - MACAU CABLE - SpoTV
MALAYSIA - Telecom Malaysia- SpoTV
MALTA - TSN1
MONGOLIA - UNIVISION -SpoTV
MYANMAR - SpoTV Now
NETHERLANDS - Ziggo Sports /Zigoo Sports TotaalNOS
NEW ZEALAND - TVNZTV3
NORWAY - Viasport 3
PACIFIC ISLANDS - DIGICEL TV : TV Wan Sports
PHILIPPINES - Skycable/Cignal - SpoTV
POLAND - Polsat
PORTUGAL - SPORT TVSPORT TV+
ROMANIA - DigisportPrima Sport 3
SINGAPORE - SINGTEL / StarHub - SpoTV
SLOVENIA - Kanal Avoyo.siPopTV
SOUTH AFRICA - SuperSport (Mnet)
SPAIN - DAZNTVE
SWEDEN - 90% Viasat Motor & 10% Viasat Sport
SWITZERLAND - SRF ZWEI / RTS2 / RSI La2 SERVUS TV
TAIWAN - SpoTV Now
THAILAND - PPTV - Ch36True Vision - SpoTV
TURKEY - S Sport1 / S Sport2
UNITED KINGDOM - TNT Sports, ITV, ITV4
UKRAINE - The First Automotive Channel
USA - NBC & CNBC
VENEZUELA - TLT (la tele tuya)
VIETNAM - SpoTV Now
Who will come out on top this weekend? Let us know in the comments below!