Malaysia fulfilled its long-time ambition to create a world championship venue in 1998, when it opened the futuristic looking 5.548km Sepang International circuit, but the wide track will not find favour with every competitor in this weekend's MotoGP event.

The circuit's 25-metre width encourages overtaking, and the four slow corners followed by comparatively long straights also help passing, but the layout - with the remaining ten corners being in the medium fast range - will allow the four-stroke riders to anticipate an advantage over their two-stroke rivals.

"Without a doubt, Sepang will be the toughest of all the 16 grands prix venues for the two-strokes this season," confirmed West Honda Pons technical director Antonio Cobas, "On the two longest straights, the bikes reach speeds of 300kph and, because the track is so smooth with no bumps and an excellent surface, there is no way they can find some advantage with suspension or tyres.

"We tested at Sepang before the start of the season and it showed that we should be counting the difference in lap times between the two and four-stroke in seconds, rather than tenths of one second. Also, normally, it's very hot there in October, which again will favour the four-strokes over the two-strokes, which can suffer power loss in such heat and humidity.

"Everything just adds up to favour the four-strokes, and we could easily see two separate races in one event. As I said, this is the toughest track of the year for the two-strokes and it will be very hard for them and that's why we will see extra four-strokes on the grid there."

Sepang staged its first Malaysian Grand Prix in 1999, a race won by American Kenny Roberts, who repeated his victory a year later. Previously, the grand prix had been held in Shah Alam and in Johor. Sepang is situated 3.5km from Kuala Lumpur International Airport and about 50km from the centre of Kuala Lumpur. Weather can play an important part of the action, with heavy afternoon rain a feature of this part of the world in October.



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