x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

MotoGP riders battle 'strange feeling' in Malaysia

Lorenzo in line to win title early but memories of fatal crash linger.

Lorenzo clinched his 2010 crown at the same venue in Sepang, Malaysia.
Lorenzo clinched his 2010 crown at the same venue in Sepang, Malaysia.

Jorge Lorenzo is seeking to close in on his second MotoGP world title at the Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend when emotions will be running high after the Italian rider Marco Simoncelli was killed in an accident last year.

Simoncelli's Honda team principal Fausto Gresini told reporters yesterday: "It left a void that can never be filled. Marco was a special person to all of us and we miss him a lot."

The popular Simoncelli died in a horror crash at last season's race in Sepang after being hit by the bikes of Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi as he slid across the track.

The race was stopped immediately and subsequently cancelled.

"With heavy hearts we will give our best this weekend to honour his memory," said Gresini, who also lost the Japanese rider Daijiro Kato in a gruesome crash at Suzuka in 2003.

Casey Stoner, the world champion, said it would be a difficult few days for the riders.

"This weekend marks the anniversary of Marco's death so I'm sure it will be a strange feeling when we all get on the track," the Australian said.

A bronze plaque is to be fixed at the scene of Simoncelli's accident at Turn 11 in memory of the rider, organisers said.

Dani Pedrosa's victory in Japan last weekend kept his slender title chances alive but Spanish compatriot Lorenzo leads the standings by 28 points with three races left.

"I'm really enjoying racing at the moment and I want to continue like this, pushing the maximum from our side without thinking about the others," Pedrosa said.

A fourth win in the last five races for Pedrosa has given Lorenzo something to think about but the championship is still the Yamaha rider's to lose.

Lorenzo, the 2010 champion, can finish third in the last three races and still win the title regardless of where Pedrosa finishes.

"We must stay very focused and put on a good show this weekend," Lorenzo said. "The track is more suited to our bike than Motegi [in Japan] so we'll be aiming for the best possible result.

"Sepang is a track with difficult memories for all of us from Marco's tragic accident last year.

"It is also a track which has very good memories for me from 2010 when I became world champion."

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