Sepang Preview: The Battle for team supremacy

by Joshua Close
Sepang Preview - Team Championship Battle - Marc Marquez

MotoGP returns to Sepang this weekend for the penultimate round of the 2019 season.

The rider and constructor titles have been secured by Repsol Honda. All that remains is the battle to be the top team. The factory Ducati team have been on top of the pile for a while. However, Marc Marquez has pulled Repsol Honda to within a point of their rivals.

So, will Marquez push his team into the lead at Sepang? Or will Ducati be able to produce a another strong performance in Malaysia?

Marquez Targets Triple Crown

Marquez has dominated the 2019 season since day one. However, he has gone to another level in recent weeks. This includes being crowned champion for the eighth time in his career.

He has finished in the top two in every race apart from the American Grand Prix. Such is his dominance, he has single handily dragged his team into contention for the Team Championship.

With 408 points, Repsol Honda are now just one behind Ducati. A second consecutive ‘Triple Crown’ is now within reach.

As with most circuits, Marquez has a good record at Sepang. Along with last year’s victory, he won in the premier class here in 2014. He also finished on the podium in 2013.

Marquez loves to win and he is also chasing another individual record. He is only eight points behind Jorge Lorenzo’s record of 383 points scored in a single season.

Ducati Power at Sepang

It’s been a tricky year for Ducati. They’ve lost their speed advantage down the straights, and have been unable to challenge Marquez all year.

Therefore, they will not want to lose out in the Team Championship. Andrea Dovizioso secured second in the championship at Phillip Island. He is the championship’s runner-up for the third consecutive season.

However, the Italian has only won twice this year and will be looking to add to his tally before the end of the campaign. He has a good record at Sepang, have won back-to-back races in 2016 and 2017. Dovizioso won both of those races in comfortable fashion.

Meanwhile, team-mate Danilo Petrucci will be looking to bounce back from another disappointing weekend at Phillip Island. Petrucci suffered a highside on the opening lap, wiping out Fabio Quartararo in the process.

The second half of Petrucci’s debut season with in the factory team has not gone to plan. In the last eight races, he has recorded a best result of seventh.

Petrucci will be hopeful of finishing as close to Dovizioso as possible in order to help his team in the championship fight.

Petronas Yamaha Homecoming

One team with extra motivation this weekend is Petronas Yamaha. The team is owned by the Sepang International Circuit, and will therefore be looking to put on a good show.

Quartararo suffered a few bumps in Australia and will still be sore heading into the weekend. The Rookie of the Year has his eyes on the Independent Rider Championship. Quartararo has a 22-point lead over Jack Miller in the standings.

The team are also edging closer to the Independent Team Championship. They have a 58-point advantage heading into the final two races.

Both Quartararo and Franco Mordibelli will want to give their team even more reasons to celebrate in Malaysia.

Battle for Third

The fight for third in the standings is not over yet either. Alex Rins currently holds that spot, despite finishing outside the top six in the last two races. He’ll be looking to repeat his performance from last season’s race, when he finished second.

His nearest challenger is Maverick Viñales, who came close to victory last weekend. The Monster Yamaha tried his best to fight back against Marquez. However, Viñales would push a little too hard and crashed out on the final lap.

Despite the result, Viñales will have gained confidence from pushing the world champion to the very limit. The Spaniard finished last year’s race in fourth.

Sepang Schedule – UK Time

The weekend’s action begins on Friday (1 November 2019) with Free Practice 1 at 02:50. This will be followed by Free Practice 2 at 07:05.

Saturday’s (2 November 2019) action begins at 02:50 with Free Practice 3, with Free Practice 4 at 06:25. Qualifying 1 begins at 07:05, with Qualifying 2 at 07:30.

Sunday’s warm-up (3 November 2019) will begin at 01:40. The race begins at 07:00.

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