Extreme conditions awaited again the MotoGP™ class on Sunday at the Sepang International Circuit for the Malaysian Grand Prix, as Augusto Fernandez and Pol Espargaro were set to start the main race of round 18 from P14 and P17 in front of many Malaysian fans having made the journey to see the best riders on track. If some went down in today’s battle, both GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 riders brought back points to the garage today with a 14-15.
Having qualified in fourteenth with a P14-finish in yesterday’s Sprint, Augusto Fernandez was looking for a bit more in today’s main race after he appeared to struggle with his race pace. The rookie had been competitive on the time attacks this weekend, missing out on Q2 by a few tenths, but finding a good rhythm was unusually tougher for him this week at the Sepang International Circuit. In front of packed stands, Augusto held his position in the first lap as the fight was declared on at 15:00 local time (GMT+8). Finding himself in a tasty Johann Zarco-Marc Marquez sandwich, the eight-time world champion passed the rookie the following lap, and the next one it was another world champion who got the best of him as Joan Mir took his sixteenth position. The number 36 crashed shortly after that, leaving Fernandez back behind Marquez, and Raul Fernandez behind him. He has used us to register his fastest race laps halfway through the races, but Augusto did not seem to be able to do so today, as his fastest was on lap 3, in just 2’00.467, and he was then unable to improve his lap times. Halfway through the race, his times dropped in the 2’01, at an earlier stage than Marc Marquez who was in front of him, so he started to lose contact. He completed the race in P14, 1.861 seconds from the number 93 behind whom he spent his race. The rookie had not scored points since the Japanese Grand Prix at the end of September, so it is good to be back in point-scoring positions, although he was hungry for more this weekend.
Pol Espargaro was starting from the seventeenth position on the grid, and was mentally ready to face a difficult race. Indeed, the Spaniard has been struggling quite a lot in hot conditions since his return from injury, with his body not completely up for extreme temperatures and a boiling RC16. At the race start, Espargaro was hit by Joan Mir, which saw him losing many positions to end at the back of the grid, just behind Alvaro Bautista. From there, he had to refocus and try to get into his race pace, which he did as he progressively regained positions. He rode his fastest lap on lap 4 in 2’00.211. In seven laps, he had made it back to P17 behind teammate Augusto Fernandez, but from there he could not find a way to pass through the number 37. The conditions were very hot, and he gave all he could to hold it, until he finally passed the checkered flag in P15, and earned a point.
As we expect slightly cooler conditions, the GASGAS Factory Racing Tech3 will now head to Doha for the penultimate round of the season, as the Qatar Airways Grand Prix of Qatar will be held at the renovated Lusail International Circuit on November 17-18-19, 2023.