All Rider Photos Sourced From MotoGP.com
3 back-to-back races in a row means it’s time for the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix! It’s the 2nd to last race of the 2019 season and although the top 2 Championship positions have been locked down by Marc Marquez and Andrea Dovizioso, the fight to Valencia continues for the remaining riders. Positions 3 – 6 have a slim 20 point gap that could easily be closed by an unexpected race win or an unfortunate low slide.
Today we are not only going to discuss rider projections and performance, but also the unique Sepang Int. Circuit itself.
Super Combined Index Sepang International Circuit
The Super Combined Index reflects a rider’s historical performance handicapped by their current season performance. Now we all know that a race win takes more than just fast times. That’s why we start from the ground up and penalize each rider’s historical sector speed by their historical sector consistency. This produces the Combined Index which is then used as the base for the Super Combined Index.
Think of the Combined Index as a historical tracker and the Super Combined Index as a projection. Each index allows us to better prepare for any upcoming GP as we analyze historical numbers in parallel with each rider’s struggles and triumphs throughout the season.
Click here to learn more about Grand Prix Scout’s unique indexing system.
Four different manufacturers rank highest for Super Combined Index – Honda, Suzuki, Ducati and Yamaha. This diverse group reflects the unexpected twists and turns that we have seen at Sepang over the years. While some circuits may be dominated time and time again by one rider, the Sepang Int. Circuit does not fall in the same category.
The podium riders over the last few years have very little cross-over with Dovizioso being the only exception as he has won twice in the past 4 years. The other 2 years were claimed by Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa who won in 2015 and Marc Marquez who won last year.
Jorge Lorenzo used to be one to keep an eye on going into the Malaysian GP, but given his team change and ongoing adaptation to the Honda, we do not expect him to be as much as a threat going into the race weekend.
Similar to Jorge, French rider, Johann Zarco was spotted at the front of the pack during the last 2 Malaysian GPs. He was on KTM, he was off KTM and now he is back with LCR Honda! His first race in Australia was a solid effort given the extreme weather conditions. Perhaps we will see the old Zarco who began his MotoGP career with a bang at this weekend’s race.
More On The Circuit Itself
The Sepang Int. Circuit has a little bit of everything. Two long straightaways, a handful of hairpin turns, a nice double apex and fast flowing connectors.
So, why is this important?
Let me begin with that it is very important.
Riding on such a diversely configured circuit translates to a fair man’s game. Not one bike or rider holds a huge advantage over another. Some teams crush it on straightaways (pssst Ducati), others find their groove on fast, flowing sectors (yes, Yamaha and Suzuki), while others have a history of dominating through tight, technical sectors (hey Honda…).
So while other circuits play to one man’s note, mastering the Sepang Int. Circuit comes down to knowing your and your bike’s strengths, where on the circuit you can utilize them most and how you can strategically overpower your opponents regardless of their skill sets. Being able to acknowledge your areas of improvement is essential in order to know where to push and where to preserve energy and tires.
Let’s break each sector down to identify their unique characteristics
Sector 1 – The least technical and shortest of the 4 sectors.
Sector 1 starts each race with a bang as it alone, encompasses the verstilality of the circuit. It eases riders into the rollercoaster of sectors before landing them in the fast, more sweeping sector 2. Additioanlly, sctor 1 stands as a recovery area for those who lack a certain level of acceleration power throughout sector 4.
Sector 2 – Slightly more tehcnical , slightly longer and overall pretty mellow.
Sector 2 begins to open up more as it transitions into the sweeping section of the circuit. Maintaining higher speeds, sector 2 builds momentum into the most demanding of the 4 sectors, sector 3.
Sector 3 – The longest, most technical sector with double the amount of turns.
Racing requires stamina and strength and if any sector is going to test that, it is Sepang sector 3. A combination of more technical turns with the ligering sweepers, many riders risk losing their momentum in this demanding sector. Sector 3 stands as the longest of the 3 sectors making it a key place to gain ground on opponents.
Sector 4 – The 2nd longest, somewhat technical, fast sector.
Hard breaking and fast acceleration is key to sector 4. Those who can match their performance from sector 3 in sector 4 will prevail as together, these sectors make up over half the total length. Superior sector 3 times will be essential for those who lack acceleration power in sector 4.
For a more in-depth analysis on the Sepang International Circuit, check out the “Circuit Stats” section of our website where we provide individual profiles of each circuit in the series.
Click here to learn more about Grand Prix Scout’s circuit analysis.
This week’s newsletter explored a different angle of racing. Whereas we usually dig into specific rider’s historical performances and future projections, today we highlighted a very important factor of racing. That being, a rider’s environment and self-awareness on any given circuit. Excelling in such a dynamic sport goes beyond physical and mental health. The ability to acknowledge outlying factors as well as the unique skills/techniques found in those on the grid takes experience, knowledge and maturity.