• Changes underway at Malaysia’s Sepang Circuit

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    Formula One drivers will tackle a revised and slower final corner at the Sepang International Circuit during October’s Malaysian Grand Prix.

    The venue is being extensively resurfaced and upgraded following design work by Italian company Dromo.

    The changes are being made to improve drainage – small rivers have formed at the corner during heavy rain in the past – reduce the speed of the corner and increase overtaking opportunities.

    The full list of alterations to the track includes changes to “improve corner drive-ability in turns 1, 2, 4, 5, 7, 8, 9, 12 and 15”. They will also “upgrade the drainage system, the kerbs and the run-off area at turns 1, 4, 9, 12 15”.

    The Sepang circuit has held the Malaysian Grand Prix since 1999 without any significant alterations to its 5.543 kilometre configuration. The changes have been made in consultation with the FIA and FIM (motorcycling federation) and their track inspections will take place before the World Superbike race at the track on May 15th.

  • Baz lucky to walk away from 180mph horror crash


    Loris Baz was extremely fortunate to walk away from a 180mph crash as the rear Michelin on his Avintia Ducati blew up as he was riding down the home straight during the second afternoon of testing at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.

    Baz was starting a flying lap when his soft rear tyre let go in spectacular fashion, sending him down the home straight. Fortunately Baz managed to walk away from the accident with nothing more than a bruised elbow.

    The incident case a delay of over an hour and Michelin quickly pulled the soft rear tyre from the remainder of the test. 

    “Fortunately, he walked away without injury and after analysing all the data of the bike, no mechanical failure was detected on his Ducati Desmosedici GP,” read a statement from Baz’ Avintia Ducati team.

    “It is now up to Michelin to analyse in detail what was the cause of this tyre failure.”

    The crash ended the Frenchman’s day as he continues to adapt to his new Ducati. His best time was a 2’02.611 which was good enough for 18th place overall. 

    “The start of the day was good. We used the soft tyre to try to improve the lap times and, although the lap was not incredible, we were able to improve the lap time from yesterday,” said the 23-year-old.

    “But then we had a problem with the rear tyre and I crashed out at 290 km/h and my bike was destroyed. Fortunately I was unhurt, but you always loose energy after this kind of accident, because even if you don’t have anything serious, you feel all your muscles like if you have been training during 20 hours.

    “My mechanics made a great job to put the bike back on track for the last two hours. It was not bad, but I felt a little bit tired riding the bike and I didn’t want to push and crash again. But I matched the same lap time from yesterday testing some suspension parts that I didn’t like too much.”

    Photos via Avintia Ducati

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  • Lorenzo ends first day of 2016 fastest by over a second


    Reigning MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo got his 2016 season off to the perfect start as he ended the first day of the opening pre-season test fastest overall.

     The Spaniard who was battling illness and serve jet-lag arrived at the circuit on the back of just two hours sleep, however the three-time MotoGP World Champion quickly started demonstrating the kind of pace and form which saw him pip team-mate Valentino Rossi to the 2015 MotoGP World Championship.

     Paddock rumours had suggest that Yamaha would be starting on the back foot after an extended 2015 season, running right down to the last race of the season with their two riders battling for the World Championship delaying work on the 2016 bike. The late start combined with the added complication of the entire field switching to Michelin tyres and running standard electronics meant many had expected Yamaha to be a slow starter in Sepang.

     Lorenzo however didn’t need much time to work his way up to fifth in the standings by the end of the first hour. Once he started adjusting to his 2016 M1, his trademark smooth riding style took him top, where he would stay for the rest of the day.

     Despite spending some time experimenting new parts for his 2016 bike, the Spaniard asserted his dominance late in the day, posting a best lap time of a 2’00.684, which was 1.033 seconds ahead of second placed Rossi.

    “I’m very happy and surprised about the feeling I had today with the Michelin tyres,” explained the World Champion.

    “The lap times were relatively easy to achieve and every time we exited pit lane we improved something on the bike to understand the electronics better and they adapted very well to the Michelin tyres.

    “I‘m very happy with the change, because Sepang, for me, is always difficult. Today I only slept two hours because of the jet-lag and I have a sore throat so I‘m taking antibiotics. My physical condition is not perfect, but to ride two or three laps, I can do that very well. If I was fitter I could do longer stints.”

    Testing continues from 2am GMT Tuesday morning with former two-time MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner joining the field on track for the first time since his retirement in 2012. Live coverage can be watched on either the BT Sport app or MotoGP.com

    Photos via Movistar Yamaha

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  • Stoner to make Ducati return in late January

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    Casey Stoner’s highly anticipated second stint with Ducati will begin when the Australian takes to the Sepang International Circuit in late January. 

    Just under a fortnight ago, Ducati announced that the retired, former MotoGP World Champion would be returning to Ducati after leaving the Boro Panigale factory at the end of 2010 before spending two years with Honda.

    Stoner’s return to Ducati is in a testing capacity, and Davide Tardozzi, Team Manager of the Ducati MotoGP team, recently revealed that Stoner’s already eagerly awaited return to Ducati will see him swing his leg back over the red bike in early 2016.

    “We are finalising the last details with Casey, there is still no precise date,” Tardozzi told GPone.

    “But definitely the first test that Stoner will do will be in Malaysia, before the official tests. He will probably test with [existing test rider] Michele Pirro. We don’t want to force him, but if you can push to the limit as he can do, his feedback will be very important. We are planning some tests for him to gain understanding and build confidence.”

    The MotoGP winter testing ban ends at the end of January, with the MotoGP paddock wasting no time at all, beginning official winter testing on the 1st February 2016, in Malaysia. Whilst the winter testing ban prevents any MotoGP riders from working with their new machines, the ban doesn’t include test riders, therefore meaning Stoner is free to work in January.

    With the GP16 expected to make a full debut in the Sepang test, Stoner will fly to Bologna before Christmas in order to get fitted onto the new bike perfectly, allowing time to have adjustments or parts made as to not waste any time once the test in Malaysia begins.

    Stoner left testing duties with Honda to take up the same role with Ducati on the provision that he would be given more opportunities to test MotoGP machines after getting very limited opportunities to do so with Honda. 

    The Australian also put his name forward to wildcard in place of the injured Dani Pedrosa for the Austin and Argentine Grand Prix last season, prompting speculation that he could have those races – as well as his home Grand Prix at Phillip Island – pencilled in to wildcard in, although Ducati are yet to confirm nor deny that Stoner will wildcard next season.

    Photos via Ducati Corse

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  • Vettel stuns with Malaysian victory

    Race winner Sebastian Vettel (GER) Ferrari SF15-T crosses the line at Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday 29 March 2015. © Sutton Motorsport ImagesSebastian Vettel and Ferrari sent shockwaves around the paddock as they stormed to victory by beating the Mercedes duo at the Malaysian Grand Prix.

    Lewis Hamilton got off to a strong start from pole, whilst Vettel managed to recover from a slow getaway by outbraking a sheepish looking Nico Rosberg.

    Virtually all the cars made it through the opening few corners without incident but Kimi Raikkonen who started from 11th after being caught out by the rain in qualifying picked up a puncture when Sauber’s Felipe Nasr tapped the back of the Ferrari at the final corner, forcing the Finn to complete a full lap with a puncture until he returned to the pits.

    The safety car was brought out on lap 4 when Marcus Ericsson attempted to get past Nico Hulkenberg at turn one, but went wide and slipped into the gravel trap, beaching the Sauber.

    Vettel who had been on the tail of Hamilton opted to stay out on track whilst many drivers darted into the pits whilst the safety car was out. After the race was restarted Vettel eventually pitted and re-emerged back behind Hamilton and Rosberg after temporarily leading the race.

    Vettel who had been fitted with a set of the faster medium tyres quickly caught the Mercedes pair who were both on the slower hard tyres. The four times world champion overtook both of the Silver Arrows but it was evident that the Ferrari had genuine pace against Mercedes.

    Mercedes continued to believe they could win until Hamilton made his final stop on lap 38, one after Vettel.

    The world champion rejoined 14 seconds behind and, although he was slightly faster than the Ferrari, he was unable to close at anything like the required rate, Vettel holding him at a distance of about 10 seconds.

    Hamilton was heard on the radio questioning the tyre choices of the team, but in the end there was nothing that he or Rosberg could do to stop Vettel and Ferrari.

    Vettel’s victory was the 40th of his career – only one short of Ayrton Senna, who is third in the all-time list – and the first time Mercedes had been beaten since last July’s Hungarian Grand Prix.

    Kimi Raikkonen (FIN) Ferrari SF15-T with puncture at Formula One World Championship, Rd2, Malaysian Grand Prix, Race, Sepang, Malaysia, Sunday 29 March 2015. © Sutton Motorsport ImagesAnd it marks an amazing turnaround by Ferrari, who last year had their worst season for 21 years, managing only two podiums. The pace of the Italian car was further outlined by the fact that Kimi Raikkonen started from 11th, suffered a puncture on lap one and still managed to finish in 4th place.

    The next three teams finished two-by-two as Williams took 5th and 6th place after a last lap dice between Valtteri Bottas and Felipe Massa put the Finn on top.

    Toro Rosso achieved their best race result in terms of points since the 2008 Italian Grand Prix when Sebastian Vettel won the race for them. Max Verstappen managed to get his first points and in the process became the youngest ever points scorer in F1 history. Teammate Sainz finished just behind in 8th place.

    Rather embarrasingly Red Bull could only manage 9th and 10th whilst their sister team took greater spoils. Both Daniil Kvyat and Daniel Ricciardo suffered from brake issues and Kvyat survived a collision with Nico Hulkenberg to beat his Australian teammate.

    Both McLaren’s retired due to technical issues, whilst Will Stevens once again failed to even start the race due to issues with his Manor-Marussia. However it was an impressive as Roberto Merhi managed to complete the whole race which will b a big boost to the Manor team.