Navigating a new surface, battling oppressive weather and earning points for a highest-possible finish in the championship table will be on the minds of riders when the 2016 MotoGP Grand Prix of Malaysia begins on Sunday at Sepang in Kuala Lumpur.
Marc Marquez has already been confirmed as champion, but he’ll still want to finish as a winner in the season’s penultimate race. Yet it will be tough for Marquez and other prominent names, such as Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi, to handle an altered track.
New asphalt has been laid at Sepang, something sure to challenge riders already dealing with the soaring heat.
Before a look at Marquez and other top riders, here are the schedule and streaming details:
Date: Sunday, October 30
Start Time: 6:45 a.m. (BST) / 1:45 a.m. (ET)
For the full event schedule, including Friday and Saturday’s qualifying races for all three MotoGP divisions, go to SepangCircuit.com.
Sepang is a world-famous course, one specially built for speed and spectacular racing. The MotoGP official site detailed the parts of the track most conducive to risk-taking: "With four slow corners following two long straights and 10 medium to high-speed corners, the wide track is particularly favourable to overtaking manoeuvres and plenty of open throttle."
Heat is also a major factor, as the same source noted: "One of the longest laps in MotoGP is made all the more gruelling for riders by intense heat and humidity."
However, there is one part of the course that’s been altered. It’s an alteration said to be concerning some drivers, according to Crash.net, in a report describing a "radical camber" on the final corner.
The same source relayed this snap of the new-look corner:
The big negative camber on the inside of the re-profiled final corner is generating a lot of debate #MalaysianGP #MotoGP pic.twitter.com/xr1MJnAfC0
— Crash.net MotoGP (@crash_motogp) October 27, 2016
Still, a rider in the form Marquez is in is unlikely to be thrown by the change. The 23-year-old Spaniard has dominated the championship standings this year.
He’s coming off a big win at the Japanese Grand Prix. It was a result good enough to seal a third title in four years for the Honda rider, per Ian Ransom of Reuters (h/t Daily Mail).
Marquez benefited from Rossi taking a crash. The Italian remains a fierce rival, though. In fact, the two still share simmering ill will about their clash in Sepang last year.
Rossi, who last won in Malaysia in 2010, has tried to play down the tension this time, according to James Klein of Motorsport.com. Yet despite his diplomacy, you can bet Rossi would love to beat Marquez this weekend. A win in Malaysia would also push Rossi a step closer to sealing second place in the standings.
Rossi has won at Sepang before.
Marquez earned the title by winning in Japan, while Cal Crutchlow built momentum by winning at the Australian MotoGP Grand Prix. The 30-year-old Englishman emerged victorious at Phillip Island, and may have an advantage at Sepang.
Crutchlow engaged in a midseason MotoGP test on the course but insists the experience hasn’t provided him with an edge, per Mitchell Adam of AutoSport.com. Still, there may be some mental strength gained from finishing ahead of the decorated Rossi in Australia.
Marquez, Rossi, and Crutchlow are the three riders to watch on Sunday, as the MotoGP moves one race closer to its conclusion. With Marquez already champion, viable contenders for next year’s title must stake their claim in Malaysia.