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GP Week : Issue 172
MARQUEZ OUT AS WILD WEATHER CUTS CRASH-STREWN RACE MOTO3 MOTO2 CORTESE CROWNED 30 GPWEEK.com // 30 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: Sandro Cortese claimed the race and the title at Sepang. But he broke Malaysian hearts, taking victory finally only on the last corner, and by less than three-hundredths of a second, from local hero and long-time leader Zulfahmi Khairuddin. ‘Fahmi’ had taken a first ever pole for his nation the day before, on his 21st birthday, and with his turn of speed on the final straight seemed set for a classic first win, as he got back ahead of champion-elect Cortese. But he was a little wide into the final hairpin and Cortese pitiless, slipping inside for his fourth win of the year. With Vinales unexpectedly AWOL, and his last title rival Luis Salom fourth, Cortese is now unassailable as first- ever Moto3 World Champion. It was also KTM’s first title after some near misses in 125. The first race of the day was the only dry one – the heavens opened directly after the chequered flag. But there had been spots, with rain flags shown and the constant chance of early stoppage. The 22-year-old German would have been considered a more generous champion had he conceded the race to friend and team-mate Khairuddin, but both were pressed hard by early leader Jonas Folger (Aspar Kalex KTM), third just two tenths adrift. Salom (Kalex KTM) regained fourth from Miguel Oliveira’s Suter Honda only on the last lap. The pair had dropped Danny Kent (KTM) and an even more distant Alex Rins (Suter Honda); with Efren Vazquez (FTR Honda) losing ground in eighth all race long. Louis Rossi had been with the lead group, but crashed out. A furious battle behind raged to the finish, with ninth to 18th covered by less than 1.5 seconds, elbows and fairings bashing and scraping as positions changed corner by corner. Over the line it was Niklas Ajo (KTM), Adrian Martin (FTR Honda), long-time group leader Arthur Sissis (KTM). Brad Binder (Kalex KTM), Jack Miller (Honda), Alex Marquez (Suter Honda) and Niccolo Antonelli (FTR Honda) in the points, with Kornfeil, Tonucci and Moncayo out of luck. Cortese’s points total of 280 is impregnable; Salom (207) took second from the absent Vinales (199); then come Rins (128) and Fenati (126 – 20th on Sunday). The race was delayed by half an hour and cut by a lap as officials waited on the weather. It started on a wet track, but with rain now spasmodic. The Moto2 gang set off for an abbreviated afternoon of variety and drama. There were surprise runners up front, including a dazzling Malaysian wild card. And a bad surprise for champion-elect Marc Marquez, when the Suter rider crashed under brakes while in a cautious (and would-be title-winning) eighth. Thrills began at the first corner, when Takaaki Nakagami made a dive for the lead, only to crash. Johann Zarco and Xavier Simeon also fell together before the lap was half done; up front Pol Espargaro (Kalex), Scott Redding (Kalex) and Bradley Smith (Mistral) each had a turn at leading, but it was Julian Simon (Suter) in front by the end, and for three laps. The Spaniard would drop back as Alex de Angelis (FTR) took over. But by now unsung wet-weather heroes had arrived from further down the grid: Briton Gino Rea (Suter) and Australian Anthony West (Speed Up), making the most of the foul conditions. Then, sensationally, they were joined by Malaysian wild card and GP novice Hafizh Syahrin (FTR), riding like a man possessed. He’d carved past not only the fast-fading Espargaro, but also the likes of Marquez and Andrea Iannone (Speed Up), and closed rapidly on the leaders. He took the lead on lap nine and held it for the next three, but by lap 15 had dropped away a couple of seconds in fourth. This left de Angelis, West and Rea scrapping. The Englishman took the lead as they started lap 16, but it was too late. The red flags came out soon after wards, and results were taken from the previous lap, the order as above. The rain had started up again, and after Marquez crashed on lap 12, he was rapidly followed by Wilairot, Torres, Terol, di Meglio and finally Thomas Luthi (Suter), who had just joined the leading group at threatening speed. Simon was fifth, Iannone sixth; then Mika Kallio (Kalex), Smith, Aegerter and Rabat, who had passed team-mate Espargaro on the last lap to consign him to 11th. It was still points enough to keep him mathematically in touch: Marquez has 283 points and Espargaro 235, with 50 remaining. Iannone has 188, then Luthi (177) and Redding (148). The Briton finished 12th. MOTOGP >>> SEPANG