MOTOGP – RD18 – SHELL MALAYSIA MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX | MotoGP
Maverick Vinales learns from his Phillip Island mistake to take an emphatic victory at sizzling Sepang
From the front row to the flag, Monster Yamaha rider Maverick Vinales avenged his defeat a week ago in Australia. Buoyed with the knowledge from Phillip Island that he had finally got his M1 right, he took the lead with a tighter corner line than fast-starter Jack Miller, then made himself untouchable throughout.
The man who pushed him to a last-lap crash last weekend, Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez, made a blazing start from the fourth row of the grid, and by the end of the first lap was disputing second with Pramac Ducati’s Jack Miller.
Marquez finally prevailed for good by lap three, and was now 1.3 seconds behind the leader. But he would never get closer, and soon after half distance Vinales had stretched it to two seconds … and to more than three seconds at the flag.
Fellow front-row starters Franco Morbidelli and Petronas Yamaha teammate Fabio Quartararo, on pole, were never in the action, run in blazing heat in front of more than 103,000 highly vocal fans at the Sepang circuit.
It was Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) chasing behind, after his own brilliant start from the fourth row of the grid. Dovi had his hands very full fending off a persistent Valentino Rossi (Monster Yamaha), who got ahead a couple of times, but never for more than a few yards.
By the end, Alex Rins (Ecstar Suzuki) had joined the pair, with all three over the line inside seven tenths, with Dovi’s trump card his extra speed and power on the straight. Rossi’s consolation was a new lap record.
Morbidelli was sixth, four seconds down; a disappointed Quartararo another three away. “My first lap was a disaster – I couldn’t stop the bike, which was an issue we hadn’t had all weekend,” he said.
Miller’s early charge went bad with unexpected front rather than rear tyre drop-off early on, and as he fought to avoid losing places he survived not only several moments but also a big clout from Rins, whose Suzuki lost a wing in the process. Curiously, this didn’t seem to affect the performance.
After 12 laps, Miller had dropped back to eighth, and was fully engaged trying to stay ahead of Johann Zarco, having a strong second race on the absent Nakagami’s 2018-spec LCR Honda. He’d started from eighth after making it straight into Q2, and dropped back to tenth. Now he was on the Ducati’s back wheel and pushing.
Trouble was coming from behind, with Joan Mir (Ecstar Suzuki), 14th on the grid, having just passed the fading – and soon to fall – Cal Crutchlow’s LCR Castrol Honda, and closing fast.
But as he tried to slip inside Zarco, he instead slammed into him, and sent him flying. Mir directly afterwards passed Miller, but with two laps left was given a ride-through penalty, and the Australian was back in a now unmolested eighth.
Almost three seconds behind, the factory Ducati of Danilo Petrucci completed an undistinguished race; then Mir completed the top ten.
There were some heated skirmishes for the last points, with Pol Espargaro on the lone factory Red Bull KTM battling with brother Aleix on the Aprilia. Pol succumbed to the Aprilia for a couple of laps, although regained 11th with two laps to go.
Aleix’s complaint was familiar, a lack of acceleration; and on the final lap he dropped back, only to lose another place to Pecco Bagnaia’s Pramac Ducati. Three seconds away, Jorge Lorenzo (Repsol Honda) was 14th, a couple of tenths ahead of Mika Kallio (Red Bull KTM); the former triple MotoGP champion’s first points since the San Marino GP five races ago.
Marquez’s 395 points are a new 18-race record; Dovizioso (256) was already safe in second. Vinales took over third from Rins, 201 points to 194, with the position still open. Petrucci has 176.