With just two races of the 2007season remaining, the Repsol Honda Team heads to Sepang for the Malaysian Grand Prix determined to capitalise on the promise of recent races.
A Repsol Honda RC212V has been on pole position for the last three Grands Prix
and both Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa feel it's time to convert their undoubted pace into the results they deserve this weekend.
Pedrosa arrives in Malaysia after taking pole position for the previous two races, including Sunday's Australian Grand Prix where he rode to a fighting fourth place. The 22-year-old Spaniard has winning form at Sepang having taken victory in the 125cc race in 2003 and the 250cc race in 2004. For his debut ride in the MotoGP class last year an injured Pedrosa produced an extraordinary performance by taking the lead from the start and finishing in a pain-defying third. The two-time 250cc World Champion sustained a knee injury in Friday practice and was doubtful for the race right until the lights went out on Sunday. A fully fit Pedrosa should be a real threat this weekend.
As the only rider at Phillip Island to match the pace of race-winner Casey Stoner, Hayden comes to Sepang with unfinished business and searching for a change of fortune. The 26-year-old American has an immensely consistent record at the Malaysian Grand Prix having finished the race in fourth place on his four previous visits to Sepang. This time the 2006 World Champion is determined to improve on that, and with recent updates to his RC212V allowing the American to ride at his stylish best, Hayden will be satisfied with nothing less than a podium finish on Sunday.
The 5.548km (3.447-mile) Sepang circuit is very familiar to the Repsol Honda Team. In the break between the end of one season and the beginning of the next, the factory Honda squad will typically complete nine days of testing at Sepang, over the course of three three-day tests in November, January and February.
Heavy afternoon rain is a frequent occurrence at undulating circuit and last year's Malaysian Grand Prix was the scene of a unique event when MotoGP qualifying was cancelled due to a partially submerged track. Torrential rain on Saturday lunchtime caused extensive flooding and grid positions were therefore decided on each rider's fastest practice lap of the weekend. The variable weather, combined with track resurfacing work since the team's previous visit, will make Thursday's tyre choice as critical as ever.
The 21-lap Malaysian Grand Prix begins at 3pm local time (11am CET, 10am UK) on Sunday.
“It really feels like it's time to get a good result because we've been knocking on the door for a few races now.
The weather has affected many races this year and it also played a part at the last one in Phillip Island because the rain meant we didn't have much dry practice time ahead of the race. In Malaysia weather is often a factor too – it can rain very hard in the afternoon as we saw last year when qualifying was cancelled. Last year's race here went quite well for me, especially after crashing in practice and not being sure that I would even be able to race. For this year I hope things go more smoothly and we can arrive at a good set-up and tyre selection so that we can be competitive right to the final lap. This is our target for the weekend. The Sepang track is quite demanding to ride and the high temperatures add to the challenge. I'm really looking forward to getting a strong result here.”
“Last week's result at Phillip Island definitely stung. But at least I was fighting for the lead when I went out rather than 12th place – that would have hurt even more. It's disappointing but I've just got to get over it. At Malaysia I think I've had fourth place every year since my debut and now I need to improve on that. The team's been doing some good work with the bike recently and we've been improving our performance, so now I'm really looking forward to getting to Sepang. It's a track we know well from winter testing but I think it's been repaved since we were last there which will make tyre choice really important. At the other tracks we've been to that have been repaved for this year we've either gone really well or really badly so let's hope this one works out for us. We really need a good result and time is running out this season. There's only two more chances so we'll go all this weekend.”