Amidst all the hullabaloo and recrimination, the controversies and the fan fights, the closed-door meetings and tight-lipped press releases, the 2015 Malaysian Grand Prix is fast going down in history as the #SepangClash.
But there was more to the race than just the infamous Marquez vs Rossi duel, grumpus Jorge Lorenzo’s so-called podium thumbs-down post boos and Race Direction.
There was dignity, sportsmanship and clean battles. Yes, heartbreak too. But mostly, there was fine, beautiful racing, the sort you want to see, but that was overshadowed and sadly forgotten.
A True Champion
I confess, I have been one of those who has always been a bit of a grumpus about Dani Pedrosa, openly criticizing him whilst voicing my frustration at his recent non-performance. But a different Dani has emerged the past few races. He is the old Dani, confident, sure and capable of perhaps running a far better masterclass in racing than Lorenzo.
He lead the race and easily stayed ahead of a charging Lorenzo, taking home an easy victory. But more than the beautiful race he ran, Pedrosa was that one sole voice of absolute dignity in the raucous cacophony that was the Sepang clash. He refused to take sides and was sportsmanlike — quite unlike Lorenzo.
The Honey Badger Strikes Again
Remember those brilliant battles Cal Crutchlow and Andrea Dovizioso used to have, back in the Monster Yamaha days? It was almost like reliving those battles as Crutchlow surged through the pack, starting 5th from the grid and dueling and changing places with Dovi. An unfortunate racing incident (after the two came together) ended with Dovi in the kitty litter. It was a mistake and Crutchlow apologized profusely.
Battle also came in the form of a determined Bradley Smith who fought tooth and nail for the 4th place. Cal and Smith changed places in perfect harmony, with the latter winning the battle finally. Cal ended the race at 5th place, one of his finer performances this year.
There were more battles, of course. (Wait… more? How did I miss it? Oh, right. I was too busy moping over the Sepang Clash!)
The Suzukis have had a challenging year and it has been heartbreaking to see Aleix Espargaro struggle (for me, because I adore Aleix). But the blue Suzukis came alive in the final two laps of the race. It was a clash worthy of reruns as Espargaro battled for position with his teammate Maverick Viñales. The two pushed it to the limit, scrapping for position, changing places. Viñales hadn’t started the race on the best of terms losing positions before the first corner. But he made up for it steadily, working his way up the ranks till he reached his teammate. The final battle for position was thrilling, with Espargaro winning the round and ending the race at 7th place. Viñales took the 8th spot.
Ducati has rocked the races this season. They have been the team that has swept us off our feet by their sheer power…and of course Andrea Iannone! (Replace exclamation mark with fan girl squeal). But Sepang was a story of unmitigated disaster. Iannone retired on lap 2 and that was the end of his race.
Dovi and Cal battled hard, but an unfortunate mistake cost Dovi the race…and points.
But it was the crazy double Ducati overtake Jorge Lorenzo made that stays uppermost in our mind. Whoa!
There is something to be said about dogged focus and determination and Danilo Petrucci was its poster boy in Sepang. The Octo Pramac Racing rider fought his way up the grid, battling Stefan Bradl first and then Pol Espargaro. He attacked Aleix Espargaro next and a battle ensued – one Petrucci won and ended the race in 6th place.
How can you not enjoy this gleeful quote? Isn’t it fantastic?
“It was the hardest race of my career, but I managed to do well and this makes me happy. I would like to dedicate this result to the team for the work they did during the weekend and also in the whole season. The start was good and when I saw that the others in front did not go away, I decided to push. I struggled with the two Espargaro who were faster in the twisty part of the circuit, but I was stronger in the braking areas. I’m really happy with this result. Now we go to Valencia with more margin to win the top 10 in the world championship.”