American Racing heads home from the flyaways with smiles on our faces after a pair of solid results as Cameron Beaubier brings home another 7th and Sean Dylan Kelly takes 18th, just missing out on another points scoring finish.
The team left Australia last week with motivation sky high after Cam’s podium fight and Sean’s overall best weekend of the year. The Sepang International Circuit presents a totally different challenge to any other track on the calendar with its stifling heat, humidity, and unique layout… combined with the boys’ lack of experience here, too.
Mixed conditions made learning the track on Friday all the more difficult and left both riders outside the top twenty. But they managed to find their feet in FP3, with a top ten for Cam sending him straight into Q2 and Sean tackling Q1 after placing 23rd.
Sean improved his best time of the weekend by another 0.7seconds in Q1 and secured 25th spot on the grid. Cam kept a cool head in Q2, took 9th and headed the third row for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Cam got another one of his now classic rocket starts off the line, made up a few spots into turn one but was forced to take evasive action to avoid a crash up ahead of him which sent him outside of the top ten by turn three. He fought back and found himself battling for 8th over the rest of the race, just a couple of seconds adrift from the podium battle, leaving a ‘what could have been’ feeling amongst the team after the turn two incident.
Sean took a leaf out of Cam’s guide to race starts and charged into the top twenty on lap one. He continued to make progress towards the points but finished just a few seconds adrift of another top fifteen finish after suffering with arm pump.
#6 Cameron Beaubier, 7th –
Sepang is a tough circuit! The heat doesn’t make it any easier but I was getting along with it more and more as the weekend went on. It was tricky In practice and qualifying with the low grip level because you only had two or three laps of really good grip out of a new tyre but we put in some good laps. I was going into the race pretty confident.
Luckily I didn’t get caught up in the 2nd turn crash but it put me back to like 16th or something and so I had to ‘restart’ my race from there. I felt like I had a pretty good recovery though. I latched onto Marcel who had a good pace going and brought it home in the end.
It’s been a crazy past month with five out of six back to back races on different continents with all the jet lag, trying to eat something you know won’t make you sick etc. but it’s been a good time experiencing some new places with the team… I’ll definitely be ready to go home after Valencia though!
#4 Sean Dylan Kelly, 18th –
I was feeling pretty good going into the weekend despite the disappointment as we were going in the right direction after Australia and my best weekend there, so I was looking at keeping the momentum and that’s what we did this weekend. It was a little tougher than we expected as it’s such a different circuit, particularly in contrast to Phillip Island – a lot more technical than I was expecting and elevation changes caught me off guard as well but I really enjoyed it.
Qualifying didn’t go as I expected after I felt quite strong on Friday with some pace in FP3 Saturday morning too. But we got the timing in pit exit wrong, which left me alone for the whole session. I was quite happy with the lap time alone but I think we had more in the bag if I was in the right spot – which everyone else managed in the main group on track. So that was a shame to not be able to see what we were really capable of there.
The race was completely different story with the pace and conditions – tyre management was a big thing. I’m 50/50 about the race as it was positive on the one hand with the good start, strong first lap and my pace from half way till the end. I was 18th at the line but in the battle for the points at the very end. But on the other hand, I had problems with arm pump from a quarter way into the race until the end. I had nothing else left to give by that point to make any passes and that. Fixing it through surgery is something I’ll be considering for after Valencia. So 50/50, but happy I gave it my all.
The flyaways in general was such a huge experience! I’ve never had to learn four race tracks in five weekends before, it was intense!! But I enjoyed it a lot, all these new countries and not only the fact that it’s new tracks but also different cities, cultures, foods etc. It was tough technically, learning so much but it helped me out in progressing and coming away with my best result in Thailand in the wet conditions, then such a strong weekend in the dry in Australia too. I’ll be taking it all into the last race weekend of the year (wow, already the last weekend?!) and looking forward to coming back out this side of the planet next year!
John Hopkins, Racing Director –
It was a really good weekend all in all. The weather was a bit iffy throughout but it always is here. For me personally it was nice being back at this track, somewhere I’ve done more laps than anywhere else in the world – thousands and thousands! But crazy how I haven’t been back in like ten years.
Both riders were consistently strong, making the most of all the conditions. Cameron was on pace throughout, even considering when he was learning the track which was really impressive. In qualifying, he put his head down and ended up making the most of his time on track, timed it well and started third row. After getting such a good start again, he was right up the sharp end and got caught up in the accident between Acosta and Chantra that cost him dearly – from top six down to fifteenth or so. He quickly made his way back up but once he got clear of the mid pack, the leaders had checked out and were too far away. But it was a really good ride – we as a team are happy with it!
As for Sean, for never being here ever before it was pretty impressive! He was on pace straight from FP1, learned the track swiftly and kept his head down from there, making steps each day despite the weather conditions. He struggled a bit in qualifying but in the race he stayed with the group, despite suffering with arm pump which he’s going to work on now. We’re happy with his consistent improvement to himself and within the team. He’s showing he really belongs here in Moto2 and he’s getting closer to being a force to be reckoned with in this championship, which we’re more than confident he will be next season.