So, did you catch the Qualifying results? Who would have thunk it eh? Well, actually, I bet a lot of people did.
After all we can safely say – championship or no championship – this has been the Marc Marquez year. You may love him. You may hate him. But the 20-year-old Spaniard has swept everyone off their feet… And if you flashbacked to Aragon and Dani Pedrosa on reading the last sentence, all I can say is that there was no pun intended.
The awesome Malaysian weekend kicked off rather early though, with the much-awaited Race Direction meeting. Marquez was handed a penalty point – a clear, pointed message being sent out, for, as MotoGP Race Director Mark Webb later explained, “irresponsible riding”. The team lost 25 points from its manufacturers’ championship as well, (points they gained from Marquez’s win) for the failure of traction control on Pedrosa’s bike.
Then there was the Ducati news. It looks like they do have a POA for 2014. Finally! Ducati Corse announced that Luigi Dall’Igna would take over as General Manager, replacing Bernhard Gobmeier who will assume a new role at Volkswagen Group Motorsport. This move brings me hope – a lot of it. I got used to seeing Dall’Igna at the Aprilia camp every SBK race – he is the man behind the team’s multiple SBK title-winning programme. I am hoping some of that luck rubs off on the 2014 Ducatis. I really do need to see Cal Crutchlow on the podium next year!
Sepang continued giving us fireworks well into Qualifying by playing hide-and-seek with the weather. Will it be wet? No, wait, it’s going to be dry. Hold on a second, I think it’s going to be wet. Most of the riders ended up with slicks though, especially given the wet areas on the track.
The 15-minute session began as the riders headed on to the track rather tentatively. News had already trickled in that Stefan Bradl would not be racing in Sepang after a crash during FP4 left him with a fractured ankle. Jorge Lorenzo was missing his confident pace. He retreated to the garage after a gigantic wobble-scare. It was obvious that he was going to wait till the nth moment before making his Qualifying run. The times weren’t too impressive and it did seem like no one was going to break Lorenzo’s record time.
The sun soon came out, shining down on the track that was wet in places. The fast riders started setting their times, slowly. 2.7 minutes soon became 2.3 minutes. Valentino Rossi was heading the pack with 8 minutes to go. Cal Crutchlow set the fastest lap then, with 2.01.801. Lorenzo finally made an appearance with six minutes left to Qualifying end.
The track had dried up. It was time to push, go for the fastest time, and charge to the best grid position possible. They were trying. At least Lorenzo was, as he set his fastest time of the weekend with 2.00.578s. It wasn’t enough, as Valentino Rossi came in to knock his teammate off the top. Crutchlow took the second spot. It seemed like we had our top grid there.
But the key word here is ‘seemed’. In all this, Marquez was steadily improving his time and just as all of us heaved a sigh at the sight of the chequered flag, the young Spaniard blasted through to the top of the grid. He also broke the lap record on his way. Are we surprised? No, we are not. This is Marquez’s 8th pole position of the season.
And I am definitely excited. That’s is a phenomenal front-row right there. May it give us a good battle tomorrow!
The Grid As We See It
Marc Marquez 2.00.011s
Valentino Rossi 2.00.336s
Cal Crutchlow 2.00.359s
Jorge Lorenzo 2.00.578s
Dani Pedrosa 2.00.692s
Alvaro Bautista 2.00.974s
Bradley Smith 2.01.306s
Andrea Dovizioso 2.01.635s
Aleix Espargaro 2.02.151s
Andrea Iannone 2.02.536s