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Oct 18, 2012

The MotoGP Paddock Remembers Marco Simoncelli At Sepang

Members of the MotoGP paddock pay their respects to Marco Simoncelli at Sepang Circuit's Turn 11, the site of Simoncelli's fatal crash in 2011. Photo courtesy of www.motogp.com
Sepang sets the scene for MotoGP™ title battle continuation

MotoGP™ championship leader Jorge Lorenzo was joined by title rival Dani Pedrosa, Álvaro Bautista, Valentino Rossi and Cal Crutchlow at the press conference on Thursday marking the 16th round of the MotoGP™ World Championship at the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Yamaha Factory Racing's Lorenzo, who could mathematically take the title this weekend with a 28-point lead over Pedrosa, is aiming not to dwell on numbers too much: "Yes it is a possibility, but it is difficult for this to happen. So I'm not thinking too much about this, but will try to reach my maximum potential in every session and especially in the race. And try to stay focussed and get some points on Sunday. In Japan we tried everything we had to win the race. I was good in practice and in the race I tried to escape but it was not possible and I finished in second place.

"And here maybe something could change - different track, different conditions and different circumstances. We will wait for tomorrow. It's a long track, very wide and normally it's very hot, so the bike is less powerful, so you feel less power when you exit the corners and you have everything long corners, slow corners and chicanes it's a complete track."

Repsol Honda Team's Pedrosa, who has to aim for the win to stand a chance of catching his compatriot said: "Normally I've been good at this track. It's a track where normally every MotoGP rider comes quite often during the season, so it's well known to everyone. In the past I did some good races, and sure it's going to be important again to keep focussed and try to ride well from every practice, and hope that the bike is working well here. It's just about getting the best performance out of every lap."

San Carlo Honda Gresini's Álvaro Bautista, who will be defending his fifth place in the championship, is a fan of the Sepang track: "Sepang is my favourite track in the championship. I did well in 125 and in 250 I won a race, and I got some podiums. And also in MotoGP I did my best race in that time, so it's a track I like a lot, so we'll see this weekend. Now I feel at my best in MotoGP the last race we did very well from the first day, and I expect to continue with this work and try to be competitive like we were in Motegi."

Ducati Team's Rossi, a six-time winner at the track, first spoke about the late Marco Simoncelli, who was remembered in a tribute earlier in the day: "It was like always very strange. But everyone in the paddock came to Turn 11 where Marco crashed last year so it was very deep [emotional]. It's already one year, but when these things happen it's difficult to understand the time it's always like the first day, also, because during the normal day, especially in the paddock, we miss him a lot."

Speaking about the circuit he commented: "This is a great circuit, one of the best during the season. All of the riders spend more or less one month during the year here in Sepang. We did a calculation that we've done around 25,000km here in Sepang in the last 10 years, so for sure everybody knows the track very well and it's a great pleasure to race here because it's one of the most fun tracks to ride in MotoGP because it's the right size, very wide, and like Jorge says, it's complete."

Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Crutchlow, who last time out suffered the disappointment of running out of fuel has put those thought behind him: "Motegi was a disappointment we had a great race. We made a massive improvement over the whole weekend and the team did a great job. We looked at the situation every night and we knew where we needed to improve and we improved it for the race, and it was just a shame we didn't calculate we'd be going that fast. It ended up meaning we didn't finish the race basically. It's good that me and Álvaro were battling there, it's what the championship needs, what the spectators want and what the riders want. We always want a close battle as well, it was a good fight.

"It's [Sepang] a circuit I know. The more laps you do around here the more you appreciate it and the more you get used to it. It's a long circuit, so if you're a little bit off in every corner then you lose a lot of time. We'll hopefully be bringing our best over the next couple of days and we'll look forward to the race on Sunday. It's going to be an entertaining weekend for sure."

Shortly before the press conference riders, teams and people from the paddock alike paid tribute to the late Marco Simoncelli at the place of his tragic accident. Starting from the San Carlo Honda Gresini team pit box, the team the Italian rode for last year, people made their way to Turn 11 on the Sepang circuit, where team owner Fausto Gresini placed a permanent plaque in his honour. After this there was a moment's silence, followed by a round of applause, then a two-minute silence. Team members and other members of the paddock then went up to the plaque to pay their own private respects.

Earlier in the day in the Sepang pre-event, MotoGP™ riders swapped two wheels for four in a hard-fought go-karting event at the Sepang track. Two qualifying sessions determined a grid of ten to fight it out for top spot, with Andrea Dovizioso, Dominique Aegerter, Sandro Cortese, Pol Espargaró, Maverick Viñales, Arthur Sissis, Danny Webb, Danny Kent, Marcel Schrötter and Jack Miller making it onto the grid.

And just as can happen in a MotoGP™ race there was drama from the off as Espargaró nearly crashed lining up on the starting grip after suffering technical problems with his kart. This was quickly replaced, yet then it was his compatriot Viñales who suffered an issue right after the start and dropped of the pace after the first few bends. Webb followed suit and crashed at turn 2 after also suffering mechanical problems.

In the race itself it was Australian youngster Sissis who led the way to take the hat trick of win, pole position and fastest lap, with Aegerter and Schrötter completing the rostrum. Completing the top five were Dovizioso and Cortese. It was later discovered that the Ajo KTM contingent had tested at the track the day before, albeit citing this did not count, as it was with 4-stroke karts rather than with the 2-stroke ones they raced with.
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