All eyes were on the skies at the Sepang International Circuit today as Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales lined up their bikes on the grid minutes before the start of a drama-filled Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix. After a dry warm up session, the wet conditions for the race made tyre choice crucial. The teammates pushed hard in the wet, whilst being careful not to get caught out by the slippery conditions. They secured seventh and ninth place respectively.
Thick clouds looked threatening, as the Doctor started the 20-lap race from fourth on the grid. Uncertain about how hard he could brake going into the first corner, he lost some positions and completed the first lap in 11th place, but it was just the start. Rossi used his experience to turn his fortunes around, steadily improving his pace and picking up places as more and more riders fell victim to the wet conditions.
He reached eighth place on lap 6. Trying to stay in contention for a good result, he was pushing to close the gap to seventh, but his attention was demanded elsewhere as Danilo Petrucci overtook him three laps later. The nine-time World Champion didn’t give up the fight and used his compatriot as a tow towards Pol Espargaró in seventh place.
As the track dried and the tyre degradation started to take its toll on his rivals, the Italian overtook Espargaró for eighth place with eight laps to go. It was a signal for Rossi to set a series of personal best sectors, showing his eagerness to join the fight at the front. One lap later he overtook Scott Redding, which motivated him even further. Though he came close, within 0.4s over the finish line, he was unable to close the gap Petrucci. He took the chequered flag in seventh place, 30.769s from the front.
Viñales had a good start from fifth place, but with the conditions having changed so drastically from those in the warm up, he didn’t risk going hell for leather on the first lap. Rather, the youngster waited for the tyres to warm up and come to him. He fell back to 16th place in the first three laps of the race, before he was able to up his pace noticeably.
Several riders saw their race end early because of the treacherous conditions, but the Spaniard was determined to keep his head down. He continued to give his all and had climbed back up to 13th midway through the race.
Encouraged by the progress, the Yamaha rider spurred on his YZR-M1. At this point he was riding consistently in the 2’15s and began to make further strides. He picked up various places, ultimately taking over ninth position, two laps before the end of the race, which he held over the finish line, 38.053s from the front.
Rossi’s nine-point score increases his total to 197 points, as he holds fourth in the championship standings, 29 points behind Viñales in third place. Yamaha have dropped to third in the Constructor rankings with a 31-point margin. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team are still second in the Team classification, 44 points from the top.
After three full-on consecutive MotoGP weekends, the team members look forward to returning to Europe to enjoy a short rest before the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana, the final race of the 2017 season, in two weeks’ time.
Position: 7th – Championship: 4th – Points: 197
“We were a little bit unlucky with the weather because I think that on the dry we could have been competitive. We wanted to do a good race because we arrived here fresh from a podium on Phillip Island and it’s good to try to stay at the top, but it rained. Unfortunately, today we also weren’t strong enough with this bike on the wet. We had a lot of problems and I was struggling for more or less three quarters of the race. We need to understand the situation and try to improve and that’s just the way it is. We’ll see what happens in Valencia. It’s another important race and a difficult track, but we’ll see. We’ll try to be competitive.”
Position: 9th – Championship: 3rd – Points: 226
“I thought we made a big step in Phillip Island in the wet, and actually I felt really good during FP2. We were third in the results and every lap I did I felt in a good rhythm. In the race it was a totally different feeling, I was losing the rear in the corners and couldn’t lean, so it was very difficult to get a good rhythm and confidence. Anyway, I have to keep FP2 and the warm up on Phillip Island in mind and don’t think about today’s race too much, because we had some issues today, but we were fast in some other sessions. I think Valencia is a good track. Actually, in the warm up we found a setting that gives me a lot of confidence. I’m quite happy about that, also because I know we have a good opportunity in Valencia, as it’s a track I really like and where I always have been fast. We’ll see what happens and try to complete the race there in the best way possible.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“We knew from the start that the weather was going to be a major factor in how today’s race was going to play out. We had wet track time in FP2 this weekend and the feeling was quite positive, especially for Maverick, but today the situation was different and we have to understand the reason. The riders couldn’t warm up the rear tyre until midway through the race and this cost them a lot of positions. When the feeling with the tyre got better, the lap times improved considerably, but unfortunately it was too late. We have to understand how the conditions of the track were different compared to Friday, because the bikes had quite similar settings today to the ones used in FP2. We’ll put this weekend behind us and after a week off we’ll focus on the final GP in Valencia in two weeks’ time. Our challenge in the Constructor Championship has come to an end and the Team Title also will be very difficult to achieve, but we’re still aiming to make a strong comeback, to end the season on a high note.”
Sensational Zarco Braves Wet Weather to Storm to 3rd in Malaysia – Solid Performance by Van der Mark on MotoGP Debut
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Johann Zarco produced a superb display today in Malaysia to blaze to 3rd and seal the second podium in his rookie season. The notable French star leapt forward from 2nd on the grid and quickly moved into the lead. He remained at the front of the field for eight laps as the rain continued to fall, before eventually meeting the chequered flag inside the top three and as the leading Yamaha rider. The result marks a highly positive close to the triple flyway races and Zarco seeks to repeat the feat at the season finale in Valencia in a fortnight.
Meanwhile, Michael van der Mark produced a fine performance as he battled against the turbulent weather at the Sepang International Circuit. The young Dutch rider began the Grand Prix from the 8th row, but he immediately stuck into a formidable rhythm as he pushed through the field. He crossed the finish line in 16th, and ahead of several seasoned MotoGP regulars to close a positive, yet challenging, debut weekend aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1. Monster Yamaha Tech3 would like to thank Michael for his efforts.
Position: 3rd – Championship: 6th – Points: 154
“It was a great race and I am happy to be on the podium again. I was a bit worried about riding in the wet because when it rained on Friday, I was not fast and overall, Marquez and Dovizioso were pretty quick. Today I used the soft tyre in order to be safe but also to get some feeling and the lap times during the race were not amazing, yet, they were fast enough to lead and I opened up a gap. It was good to start the GP in this way, and even though I felt that I couldn’t push anymore, I did enough to stay first. Then, when the two Ducati riders overtook me, I thought about fighting with them. Eventually, I lost too much in acceleration so I had to push a lot on the brakes. Yet, it was too risky and I lost the rear twice. I wasn’t sure about what to do, however, I expected the track to dry a bit, and then I wanted to attempt to catch them, but I was limited. On the last three laps, I ran alone in third, so I decided to stay focused and the result was already pretty good so I chose to be safe and enjoy it!”
Michael van der Mark
Position: 16th – Championship: Not Classified
“I am really happy with today’s result, even though it was typical Malaysia and just before the race commenced, it rained again! The team and I changed the bike considerably compared to Friday when it was wet and we went softer on the rear. I had quite a good start, and the first half of the GP went very positively as I followed the guys in front of me and I fought with a lot of riders. I’m pleased with my performance, even if I wasn’t completely happy with the bike, but it was only my second time on the YZR-M1 in the wet. In my eyes, to fight for the points and follow Maverick was really amazing. When it dried a little bit, I struggled slightly more than him, yet, I could run a similar pace. I think I lacked a bit of confidence with the turning of the bike, otherwise, I may have been able to stay with the big group in front of me. I hoped to catch them with Maverick, but I also wanted to finish the race, which I did. Overall, I enjoyed the weekend a lot and my first experience with the YZR-M1 was just amazing.”
Monster Yamaha Tech3 – Team Manager
“It’s a great way to end these three flyaway races and the weather, as well as the track conditions, were tricky but finally, we got the podium that we were dreaming of after the one we had in Le Mans. I was really sad and bitter to have just missed out on third in Australia and I thought maybe that was the last opportunity of the season for Johann to get on the rostrum again. However, he proved me wrong today. He was fast and confident about scoring a solid result in the dry, but when we saw the rain falling, we thought the chance had gone, because the feeling on Friday in the wet was not very good. He chose the soft rear tyre, started well, got his head down and ran a strong rhythm which allowed him to be in the lead for the first seven laps. This was an incredible feeling for him but even more so for us. We knew that it was always going to be difficult to stay in front of the Ducati bikes and when they passed us, it was almost like it was the plan. Then we saw Marquez closing and I was scared because we know how fast and how much of a warrior he is. Yet, when Johann saw the gap was shrinking between himself and Marc, he pushed more and finally, Marquez gave up. This is something we have to be proud about as Marc does not often give up. A podium is an incredible reward and three consecutive front rows starts, and a near podium in Australia all mean that the flyway races have gone very positively. We can see that Johann is growing and he is so much more of a MotoGP rider than when we began the year of course. On the other side of the garage, Michael van der Mark did a brilliant job. I want to thank him because it was not easy to jump on a MotoGP bike at round 17 when everyone is fast and they know their bikes so well. Like with Broc last week, he had to discover the carbon brakes, the Michelin tyres and the electronics. Yet, Michael did a top job. He was a bit unhappy with himself after the crash in qualifying, but today he showed great determination. He had a strong start and fought with Cal Crutchlow, who is a Grand Prix winner in the wet, Iannone and he closed in on the factory Yamaha’s. I must thank him for his super effort and I hope, and I think it may happen, that we will see him on the YZR-M1 in the future. Let’s hope this performance will give him a special boost that will translate into a podium in the final WorldSBK race in Qatar next week. I must say thanks to the entire Monster Yamaha Tech3 team, so let’s fly back home and enjoy some well-deserved rest.”
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