Malaysian GP: Honda preview

HONDA RIDERS READY TO GET HOT The penultimate round of 2009 MotoGP World Championship takes the Honda riders to Sepang, Malaysia for the final flyaway of the season in what is traditionally the most physically demanding race of the year and a ...

HONDA RIDERS READY TO GET HOT

The penultimate round of 2009 MotoGP World Championship takes the Honda riders to Sepang, Malaysia for the final flyaway of the season in what is traditionally the most physically demanding race of the year and a race where Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) typically excels.

If history is any judge, Pedrosa will be spraying champagne from the podium on Sunday afternoon. The Spaniard put his pole positions the last two years to good use; he was second in 2008 and third in 2007. His record in the smaller classes is even more impressive. From second on the grid, he won the 250cc race in 2004, a year after he won the 125cc GP.

Pedrosa will be looking to build on superb third-place finishes in the previous three races in Estoril, Misano, and Phillip Island as he fights for third in the championship. The Phillip Island result was his ninth podium of the season, four of which came in the last five races.

The 2009 World Championship will likely be decided in Malaysia, with Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) poised to take his seventh premier-class title, the first three of which came aboard Hondas. If Rossi finishes fourth or better in either of the final two races, the title will be his, even if teammate Jorge Lorenzo wins both races. Pedrosa is only six points behind Casey Stoner (Ducati) in their own battle for the final spot on the championship podium.

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) has fond memories of Malaysia, which he considers his favourite track. It was here that he climbed the MotoGP podium for the first time by finishing third in 2008. Having won at the British Grand Prix, third is no longer good enough, and the Italian has his sights on moving up the steps of the podium. In order to get there, he knows he must have a strong qualifying effort, which he's resolved to do.

With their finishes in Phillip Island, the Repsol Honda teammates helped solidify Repsol Honda as the runner-up spot in the Team championship.

The San Carlo Honda Gresini teammates arrive in Malaysia with plenty of motivation. Six riders are separated by six points in their quest to finish seventh in the championship. Alex De Angelis is one of three riders tied for seventh with 101 points, teammate Toni Elias has 95. Elias is looking forward to Sepang, a track he likes for the layout and the weather, more similar to his home in Spain than the cold and wind of Phillip Island.

De Angelis is coming off a strong fourth place finish in Phillip Island where he was part of the lead quartet before the factory machines got away. Still, on his production Honda RC212V he was only one spot off the podium on the fastest track of the year. It is in the fast corners where De Angelis excels, which is why he did so well in Australia. Sepang is a more stop-and-go course, which will make his race more difficult. The Sepang track has been good to the rider from San Marino, with runner-up finishes in the 250cc class in both 2005 and 2006.

Frenchman Randy De Puniet is tied in points with De Angelis.

Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda MotoGP) loves Sepang and for good reason; he has two 125cc victories at the track outside of the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur. The Phillip Island race was one of his best of the year, not only for his finish, but for the amount of data the team was able to accumulate. Putting that data to good use will be the key to the Hungarian's success in Malaysia.

Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda) could well wrap up the 250cc World Championship in Malaysia, but it won't be easy. Some bad luck in Phillip Island cost the Japanese rider 14 points of his title lead and a new rival. A late season revival has put current champion Marco Simoncelli (Gilera) in the frame, which his why Aoyama will need to be at his best. That shouldn't be an issue. Aoyama won the race in 2007 and finished second last year. This year he'll turn 28 on race day. What better way to celebrate than with a win.

Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda) had a breakthrough weekend in Australia. The 22-year-old from Naples took his first ever pole in the 250cc class and followed it up with his first 250cc podium in the red flag-shortened race. The podium finish vaulted him to sixth in the championship. With two races to go, De Rosa's momentum could take him to fifth overall. Regardless of where he finishes in the next two races, his first year in the 250cc class will be his best ever in grand prix racing.

Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) had a great ride in Australia and is looking forward to building on what his team learned there for another great result this weekend. And the Spaniard needs a great result; he is currently eighth overall and on course for a top-ten championship finish, but the rider currently in tenth spot is only two points behind!

For Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG), Sepang is something of a home grand prix. Malaysia hosts the closest race to his home in Thailand and he can count on the support of the locals, as well as family, in the second to the last race.

Shuhei Aoyama, the younger brother of championship leader Hiroshi Aoyama, is looking forward to Sepang so he can erase the memories of an off day in Australia. Held only a week later, Sepang will give Aoyama to continue to re-acclimatize to 250cc racing after a year in World Superbike. Since his return, Aoyama has shown he's lost none of the corner speed from his earlier days in the class.

The CIP Moto-GP250 team of Shoya Tomizawa and Valentin Debise have been threatening to score more top ten finishes ever since Tomizawa finished tenth in his home grand prix at the Twin Ring Motegi. At 17 years of age, Debise has had a steep learning curve, while Tomizawa, 18, has done himself no favours by failing to score points in six races. Both are looking forward to visiting Sepang for the first time.

The Sepang International Circuit is the hottest and most familiar on the World Championship calendar. Until the recent reduction in off-season testing, teams would visit the facility south of Kuala Lumpur two or three times over the winter. Weather was the reason. Tropically hot and humid all year round, Sepang's consistent weather conditions make it a great testing venue. Tropical downpours are always a possibility, however, though the track dries quickly.

At 5.548km, the ultra-wide track is a mixture of corners, ten rights and five lefts, with two sixth gear straightaways -- the longest straight is the start-finish at 920 metres. There are a number of fast corners that open up onto straights, one brisk change of direction, and a hairpin leading onto the start-finish straight. What riders need most is a bike that accelerates hard, while getting the power to the ground, lots of top-end grunt, and stability on the brakes.

HONDA MotoGP RIDER QUOTES

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) says: "Sepang is a good circuit and I always look forward to this race. I've won here previously with Honda in the 125 and 250 classes, and I'd really like to add a MotoGP win to those victories. It could be tough, because we know how fast our rivals have been recently, but, still, the win is what we'll be aiming for, as always, and also to challenge Casey (Stoner) for third in the championship. The track has a fast and challenging layout, plus the hot, humid conditions we encounter here always means this is a physically demanding race for the riders, although we're well prepared for it. It will certainly be a big contrast to the cold weather conditions we rode in at Phillip Island last weekend. At the moment, we are looking to improve the stability of our machine and it's important that from the first moments of practice that we use all the preparation time available to us to arrive at the best possible package for this race."

Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) says: "I really look forward to racing in Malaysia as this is my favourite track and I have good memories here. Last year I had a strong race in Sepang and scored my first podium in MotoGP on the RC212V for the Scot Honda team. I'm also confident about this weekend, because during the last part of the race in Australia my feeling with the bike improved a lot, and if we make a good start in practice on Friday I think we can go on to be competitive in the race. As we saw in Australia, it's so important to secure a good position on the grid if you want to fight for the leading positions. Sepang is an excellent circuit and because of this I enjoy the Malaysia Grand Prix very much. It's a complete track, with various fast and slow sections, and also the circuit is wide, which lets you try different lines. With the MotoGP bike, it is really fun and it'll be great to get back out there Friday."

Alex De Angelis (San Carlo Gresini Honda) says: "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."

Randy De Puniet (LCR Honda) says: "We had quite a good weekend in Australia, but everything changes in Malaysia. The conditions are so different -- maybe from 16 degrees to 35 degrees -- that the bike changes, the tyres change and the feel you get from the machine changes. It will therefore be important to work very well during the three sessions. I had a good battle with Dovizioso, Kallio and Melandri at Phillip Island and I hope we have more fun this Sunday."

Toni Elias (San Carlo Gresini Honda) says: "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."

Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda MotoGP) says: "I'm very positive about Sepang. I love the track. I've got two victories, there in the 125cc class. We analysed the data from Phillip Island to have a better performance next weekend, because I feel I can fight for a better position. It will be hot, but I'm not worried. If I can have an easier bike, there will be no problems."

HONDA 250cc RIDER QUOTES

Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Honda): "Malaysia? It's just another race!"

Raffaele De Rosa (Scot Honda): "Sepang is a circuit I do not like very much. But this year I've been in good form everywhere, so maybe I will love it by the end of the weekend. I hope so!"

Hector Faubel (Valencia CF-Honda SAG) says: "These last two races are going to be very important if I am to get the top-ten championship result I wanted at the start of the season. We will be working very hard, especially on the engine, to get the maximum performance in the very hot conditions."

Ratthapark Willairot (Thai Honda PTT-SAG) says: "I suppose this is my home race, which in one way makes a big difference to me and in another makes no difference at all. I will have friends and family there, so I will want to get the best possible result for them. But that is always my goal at every race. I will do my best to match or beat my fifth place in France."

Shuhei Aoyama (Racing Team Germany) says: "Malaysia is going to be difficult, because the heat and humidity takes power from the engine, but I will try my best. I like the track in Malaysia, but the heat makes it difficult. I also hope that we have better luck than in Phillip Island where the rear tyre performance made it very difficult to come off the corners after only seven or eight laps.

Shoya Tomizawa (CIP Moto-GP250) says: "This will be the first time for me to the track in Malaysia and I think it will be very hot and this is not only my problem, maybe it's everybody's problem. I only know the track on the computer, so I will walk the track and take the scooter to learn as much as I can before practice starts on Friday."

Valentin Debise (CIP Moto-GP250) says: "I didn't like the cold and the wind in Phillip Island and I think the hot weather is going to be difficult in Malaysia as well. I don't know the track -- only on PlayStation -- but it does not look as challenging as Phillip Island. We'll see. It takes me a little more time than Shoya to learn the tracks because I have less experience. The team has a good approach to the weekend, but it was difficult for me to follow at Phillip Island. I think Malaysia will be better."

-credit: honda

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Series MotoGP
Drivers Valentino Rossi , Gabor Talmacsi , Andrea Dovizioso , Jorge Lorenzo , Marco Simoncelli , Toni Elias , Shuhei Aoyama , Casey Stoner , Hiroshi Aoyama , Shoya Tomizawa , Dani Pedrosa , Phillip Island , Valentin Debise
Teams CIP