SAN CARLO HONDA GRESINI RIDERS CHASE SEVENTH HEAVEN IN SEPANGIMO CIELO A SEPANG A globetrotting finale to the 2009 MotoGP World Championship makes its penultimate stop-off this weekend as the paddock pitches up at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia...
SAN CARLO HONDA GRESINI RIDERS CHASE SEVENTH HEAVEN IN SEPANGIMO CIELO A SEPANG
A globetrotting finale to the 2009 MotoGP World Championship makes its penultimate stop-off this weekend as the paddock pitches up at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia en route to Europe from Australia. Last Sunday's race at Phillip Island saw San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alex de Angelis return to the scintillating form he has shown throughout the second half of the season with a fantastic fourth place, as his team-mate Toni Elias rescued some positives from a difficult weekend. Both riders are now locked in an entertaining battle for seventh place in the championship that is providing an interesting sub-plot to the title battle, with De Angelis currently in the driving seat but with no fewer than six riders separated by just six points.
Both De Angelis and Elias are expecting a different kind of challenge at Sepang - a circuit that could barely be in more contrast to the fast and flowing nature of Phillip Island, characterised as it is by hairpins and long straights that put the emphasis on horsepower and hard braking rather than chassis precision and rider skill. The conditions will also be in stark comparison and from ambient temperatures of 16C in Australia, anything up to 40C can be expected in Malaysia.
The Sepang International Circuit, located 50km to the south of the capital city of Kuala Lumpur, has played host to the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix since 1999, making this the eleventh consecutive season that MotoGP has visited the track. Previously the event had been held at Shah Alam (from 1991 to 1997) and Johor (1998). With Assen significantly shortened over recent years, at 5,548 km Sepang is now the longest circuit on the championship calendar and with the track width stretching to 25 metres at some points it is easily the widest.
ALEX DE ANGELIS
"In theory Malaysia will be more difficult for us because our strength all season has been in the fast corners, which there are a lot of at Phillip Island but not so many at Sepang. There are a lot of hairpins where you need good acceleration and drive out of the corners and this has been a weak point for us. Having said that, I am in great form at the moment, the bike is working well and we are full of confidence. I'm going there seventh in the championship, with a smile on my face and really looking forward to competing again."
"Australia was a difficult weekend for us but we knew it would be and there were no surprises. The good thing was that we stayed well in touch with seventh place in the championship and my goal over the final two races is to achieve that position. We had problems with rear traction at Phillip Island and it has been our Achilles heel all season but we are very confident it won't be a problem in Malaysia. I love the track and the conditions will suit us much better, so hopefully the race is more like the others we have experienced in the second half of this championship, with a competitive weekend fighting for a top six finish."
"We head to the Sepang circuit in Malaysia looking to continue with our attempt to secure seventh place in the championship, an achievement that would certainly be positive considering how the 2009 season started. We'll give the maximum possible support to our riders so that they can continue to challenge for top results, like Alex's recent fourth place in Australia. De Angelis is not a big fan of this circuit but his great current form will ensure that he'll be on the pace again this weekend. Toni, on the other hand, loves Sepang and I'm sure he can have a great race and join that battle for seventh place overall in the championship."