There is a cliché about sports events having a "pressure cooker atmosphere", but in the case of the Sepang MotoGP race, it is almost literally true. A combination of withering heat, completely saturated humidity, and incredible pressure is cooking up an explosive climax to the MotoGP championship.
With a championship on the line, the pressure is plain to see. In the previous 18 races, Pecco Bagnaia had just 12 crashes. On Saturday, he added another two to that tally. Fabio Quartararo has had six crashes in the 18 races before this weekend, and added another during FP4, fracturing a finger in his left hand in the process. Likewise Aleix Espargaro, who has added another two crashes this weekend, taking his total to 13. For the record, the current crash leader is Darryn Binder, with 22.
Results and summary of qualifying for the MotoGP class at Sepang:
The final practice session was a bit of a challenge for the premier class, with a handful of unexpected crashes scattered throughout the session. While Pol Espargaro, Jorge Martin and Johann Zarco crashed within a couple of minutes of each other, Enea Bastianini and Marco Bezzecchi were trading top spot on the timesheets and it was the rookie who eventually took the chequered flag from prime position. Bastianini missed out by seven hundredths of a second, while Martin had sealed third prior to his turn nine tumble.
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto2 class at Sepang:
Results and summary of qualifying for the Moto3 class at Sepang:
Track surface was just getting back to fully dry by the time the premier class had another go at practice, but dark clouds were closing in once more for the final third of FP3 and although raindrops were modest, they brought some drama on the timesheets. After missing out on the top 10 on Friday, Pecco Bagnaia was in a rush to prove his speed on Saturday morning and headed straight to the top of the timesheets on his first flying lap. It was still nowhere near enough, as the Italian took a surprise tumble in the final couple of minutes and found himself into Q1 at the chequered flag.
Despite some damp patches still spicing things up for the intermediate class, the track was nice and ready to bring down Friday’s benchmark. Although riders were quickly closing in, long runs and yellow flags soon got in the way and it wasn’t until the final couple of minutes that Ai Ogura improved at the top of the pile, as the only rider into the 2:06s on Saturday morning. The championship leader ended practice two tenths of a second quicker than rival Augusto Fernandez’s top time from Friday and four tenths ahead of his closest challenger on Saturday, Tony Arbolino.
The lightweight class started day two at Sepang with a drying track following overnight rain and riders spent the morning navigating wet patches on slicks. Conditions improved sufficiently throughout the session to threaten Friday’s combined top 14, although Dennis Foggia’s benchmark stood by a couple tenths of a second. Despite a late charge from impressive rookie David Muñoz to take the lead of the session, the Spaniard was only third quickest overall, behind Foggia and Ayumu Sasaki.