The last leg of MotoGP’s epic triple-header takes place with the Malaysian GP in familiar surroundings at Sepang which hosts a special home debut, potential record breakers and the proper start to 2020 preparations.

Marc Marquez is single-handedly leading the Repsol Honda charge to secure the 2019 MotoGP Triple Crown as he targets the teams’ title to go alongside the riders’ and constructors’ world championships, while Jorge Lorenzo’s struggles continuing on the other side of the garage.

The 26-year-old dismissed the idea of revelling in the records he’s been setting in recent seasons but Marquez has the rare opportunity to beat the all-time MotoGP points tally for a single season.

Lorenzo holds the current record on 383 points, set over 18 races in 2010 during his time at Yamaha, with Marquez currently on 375 points from 17 races with two rounds to go.

For Marquez to miss out on the record would require some uncharacteristic mistakes and serious bad luck given he’s averaging over 22 points per race this year even including his DNF at the Americas MotoGP back in April.

Given any rider must produce unwavering quality and almost constant front-running performances to break this particular record, it will be a true measure of Marquez’s total domination in 2019 if he is able to increase his points haul by eight over the next two races.

Off the back of five consecutive wins, Marquez has to be the favourite going into Sepang equipped with the powerful RC213V on the track’s two long straights while he can wrestle the bike between the high speed corners where the likes of Yamaha and Suzuki have appeared stronger this year.

Sepang has also been a happy hunting ground for Honda this decade with five wins from the past seven years – two for Marquez and three for Dani Pedrosa – with only a Ducati double by Andrea Dovizioso halting the Tokyo manufacturer’s momentum in 2016 and 2017.

Ducati will also fancy Sepang as its last clear opportunity for victory this year but hot and grippy conditions haven’t been the GP19’s ideal settings this season.

One situation MotoGP has avoided this season is an out-and-out wet race and with Sepang famous for its monsoon-style rain, plus the typical mixed weather forecast, there’s a strong possibility of a wet race. The last wet Malaysian GP saw Dovizioso dominate for Ducati in 2017 so he’ll be hoping to a repeat two years on.

After seeing Maverick Vinales give an all-or-nothing attack for victory against Marquez at Phillip Island, Yamaha should remain quietly confident of its own chances at Sepang having seen Valentino Rossi lead for the majority of last year’s race before crashing with four laps to go.

The 40-year-old would love to recapture some of that form, having briefly led in Australia albeit prematurely, as he hunts for some much-needed motivation and momentum going into a long and pivotal winter.

All eyes on 2020 vision

Ever since Marquez wrapped up the MotoGP riders’ crown back in Thailand he was adamant on using the rest of this season as early preparations for a 2020 title attack.

But with background distractions in Japan and Australia, not to mention the unique characteristics and unfavourable conditions thrown up at Phillip Island, Sepang will provide the first representative running with a serious consideration to next season.

The Malaysian circuit is home to the key pre-season shakedown and first test in February so this weekend offers like-for-like running which can be referred to during the winter tests.

Given MotoGP rules restrict teams from a full-fat opportunity of testing for 2020, just ask Suzuki after mistakenly testing a new engine specification with Sylvain Guintoli during the Japanese GP weekend, experimental electronic settings and wider parameter changes on current packages are likely to be in action so teams can bank vital data.

Petronas Yamaha’s heroic homecoming

After a stellar maiden MotoGP campaign, the Sepang Racing Team heads home for its first race in Malaysia in the premier class with further glory within reach.

Fabio Quartararo, looking to shake off a bruising Australian GP, leads the MotoGP Independent riders’ standings by 22 points from Jack Miller meaning if he extends that gap to over 25 points in Malaysia, he will secure the honour with a race to spare.

Similarly, Petronas Yamaha’s combined efforts between Quartararo and Franco Morbidelli sees the team at the top of the Independent teams’ standings by 58 points in front of nearest rivals LCR Honda -

If the results go the right way for Petronas Yamaha, by not conceding more than 12 points to LCR Honda, it will have a double delight to celebrate at its first home round in the top category of Grand Prix racing and complete its story as the surprise package of the season by going from beginners to Independent champions.

Petronas Yamaha’s frequency and level of success was predicted by few at the start of the season, many putting it down to shocks Quartararo has produced as a rookie, but a close working relationship with the factory Yamaha squad plus the hiring of experienced personnel in key positions like Wilco Zeelenberg (team manager) and Ramon Forcada (Morbidelli’s crew chief) has made the team’s transition into MotoGP smooth and spectacular.

Marquez’s second shot at the Moto2 title

While the Australian round didn’t go to plan for Alex Marquez, the Marc VDS rider won’t need to panic with the Moto2 title still within a comfortable reach.

While mathematically the title is still possible for four riders, Marquez still holds a 28-point lead over nearest rival Thomas Luthi and as long as that gap remains bigger than 25 points – along with no other rivals moving within 25 points – the Spaniard will wrap up the intermediate title with one race to spare.

But Marquez’s Moto2 record at Sepang remains far from impressive with a pair of DNFs coupled with two seventh places meaning he’ll want to improve on his personal record before giving any thoughts to early title celebrations before returning to his native Spain.

 

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