The whirlwind end-of-season MotoGP schedule continues this week with Fuchs Kawasaki riders Andrew Pitt and Garry McCoy on a tight deadline to prepare for Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix.

The race, at the Sepang circuit, is the second of three GPs being conducted on consecutive weekends, with the swing through the Asia Pacific region completed next week when the two riders compete on home soil in the Australian GP at Phillip Island. For now, however, the task is adapting to the energy-sapping equatorial climate of Malaysia, with last Sunday's Pacific GP in Japan is a distant memory.

For Pitt, the Malaysian race will mark the first anniversary of his GP debut - and the end of his rookie status. Twelve months ago, the World Supersport Championship winner received a late call-up to replace the injured Akira Yanagawa in the fledgling MotoGP squad, and made his GP debut on the ZX-RR at a track he had never seen before.

"I'm looking forward to Sepang," the Australian admitted, "It's twelve months since I got thrown in the deep end for my GP debut and, as a rider, this race will give me a chance to gauge myself against the other guys and how much I have improved.

"At least, this time around I know the track and the ZX-RR after a year of riding, and the bike will basically be the same as it has been for a while now, apart from the recent engine upgrade. I expect to be faster than before at Sepang, although it's a track where we still face some familiar problems - not being able to get on throttle quick enough on corner exit and then trying to keep the front end down."
Team-mate McCoy, meanwhile, will be simply looking for a change of fortune. Minor mechanical problems have forced the Australian to retire his Ninja ZX-RR early from the past two races in Rio and Motegi, but the omens look good for in Malaysia, a country that has always been favourable to the hard-riding veteran.

It was at the Shah Alam track in 1995 that McCoy scored the first of five career GP victories, in the 125cc Malaysian GP, while, more recently, he has twice been on the podium at Sepang in the blue-riband class, with close third places in the Malaysian Grand Prix races of 2000 and 2001.

"I'm here to race and get the best possible result - and, hopefully, I'll get a chance to go the full distance this weekend - I haven't seen the chequered flag for a couple races now," McCoy said, "Malaysia has some happy memories for me, so hopefully that's a positive sign. At least we know what to expect here from the ZX-RR because we did a lot of laps in pre-season testing and, hopefully, all that technical and tyre data will give us a base to work from this weekend."

Tropical heat, humidity and often thunderous afternoon storms are all part of the racing equation at Sepang, a circuit that features the unusual combination of two parallel straights, hard braking hairpins and a sequence of long, fast sweepers. And while the riders generally like the circuit, for Kawasaki team boss Harald Eckl the layout is not one to be savoured.

"Sepang is a track that puts some emphasis on the chassis and, even though we have raced and tested the ZX-RR here, it's in these areas that Kawasaki have some catching up to do," he explained, "While the recent power update is not a huge change, it is a good overall step forward.

"It will be nice for Andrew to celebrate his GP anniversary and for us to measure his progress from last year, while, for Garry, I'm hoping we can give him a bike that will go the full race distance. He's a racer and I know that for him not to finish because of minor problems is frustrating."

 

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