Our deepest condolences to the family and friends of Afridza Munandar, who died following a crash on the opening lap of the Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup race held Saturday after MotoGP qualifying. The 20-year-old Munandar was an up-and-coming rider, fighting for the series championship entering the Sepang round.

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The MotoGP racing community took a moment to remember Afridza Munandar who died in a crash in a Idemitsu Asia Talent Cup race at Sepang Saturday.

It’s all over but the shouting for Grand Prix motorcycle racing in 2019. With Alex Marquez seizing the day in Moto2 from the second step of the podium, all three titles are now settled. Round 19 in Valencia will be largely window dressing, a fashion show, a curtain call for some riders and a resume-builder for others.

Today’s races, as actively announced as any all year, Matt and Steve occasionally yelling their lungs out, were mostly pseudo-suspenseful. Sure, there was some action worth the price of admission, especially in Moto3, but both Moto2 and MotoGP were high-speed parades. This late in the season, most fans are seeking entropy, disorder, a shaking up of the usual order of things. With the exception of the cluster on Lap 7 of the Moto3 race, things proceeded in a painfully orderly fashion.

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With a second-place finish, Alex Marquez has secured the 2019 Moto2 title. This is his second world championship, following the 2014 Moto3 title.

Before we get too far into it, lost in the sauce of Phillip Island (read: overlooked by the writer) last week were several indications that the members of the highly touted 2019 rookie class not named Fabio Quartararo are starting to get things hooked up. Pecco Bagnaia missed his first podium by 5/100ths, and Joan Mir flogged his Suzuki to a season best P5. They’re coming. Miguel Oliveira, despite being consigned to the KTM satellite team again next year, appears to be the real deal. These four guys will stir things up in 2020 and complicate contract considerations for all of the teams heading into 2021.

Practice and Qualifying

The grid would be missing two riders this weekend. Tito Rabat was DNS with injuries from Aragon. Oliveira gave it a go in FP1 and subsequently declared himself out with injuries inflicted during practice last week. Rabat’s team went out of its way to issue a release stating with utter confidence their belief that Tito will heal completely by the time Valencia rolls around and will be there fighting for the podium in front of his Spanish compatriots. Of course he will.

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Fabio Quartararo set a lap record in FP1 and then broke it in FP2, becoming the first rider to complete the Sepang circuit faster than 1 minute and 59 seconds.

Dani Pedrosa’s lap record from 2015 was shattered over and over again, starting Friday with Quartararo in FP1 and again in FP2. Fabio was in a different world on Friday. Kind of the way Marc Marquez is on Sundays. Franco Morbidelli, Andrea Dovizioso, Maverick Viñales and Valentino Rossi were hanging around in the top five, but Sepang on Friday was all Fabio and The Chasers. Marquez was loafing in sixth after FP2, having completed 18 laps all day compared to Mir’s 34. With Marquez joining The Chasers, the rest of the lambs included Jack Miller, Bagnaia, Alex Rins and our boy Johann Zarco who, passing directly to Q2 in P10, is busy proving that, as hard as it is to ride the Honda, it’s not as hard as riding the KTM.

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Cal Crutchlow breezed through Q1 and qualified fifth in Q2.

The main combatants in Q1 included Cal Crutchlow, Danillo Petrucci, Mir and Aleix Espargaro. When the dust cleared, Cal ruined everyone’s day with the fastest lastest lap of the session, keeping Mir and Espargaro on the outside looking in. The end of Q2 saw Marquez get his just deserts after spending the entire session dogging Fabio, getting under his skin. His “cheeky” behavior was rewarded by a cosmic highside late in the session, putting him in P11 on Sunday.

Subsequently, Morbidelli, Viñales and, finally, young Fabio himself broke the all-time track record, putting three Yamahas on the front row, two of them from the new Petronas team, punching well above its weight. Miller, Crutchlow and Rossi made up Row 2. And Zarco put his RC213V in P9 for Sunday, on just his second date with the Honda. Quartararo etches his name yet again on the list of all-time track records.

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Alex Marquez captured the Moto2 pole, putting him in good position to clinch on Sunday.

In the ongoing Moto2 contest, series leader Alex Marquez took pole, joined on the front row by Tetsuta Nagashima and Brad Binder. Xavi Vierge, contender Tom Luthi and rookie Jorge Martin would start from Row 2. The top 12 qualifiers were in the 2:05’s, tighter than a nun’s knees. In Moto3, Marcos Ramirez seized pole and bragging rights, joined on the front by Aron Canet and Albert Arenas. Row 2 would feature John McPhee, Kaito Toba and champion Lorenzo Dalla Porta, who could easily adopt a “win or bin” attitude on Sunday.

The Races

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Gabriel Rodrigo, seen here peaking through with #19, high-sided while leading, taking out Tatsuki Suzuki and Alonso Lopez. Thankfully, no one appeared to be seriously injured.

The Moto3 race was proceeding swimmingly until Lap 6, when Gabriel Rodrigo, fighting for the lead with Tatsuki Suzuki and Ramirez, initiated an appalling high side, taking Suzuki with him and running Ramirez into the grass for 200 yards, dropping him from third to 12th. Alonso Lopez, minding his own business in sixth place, caught something out of the corner of his eye moments before finding an expensive 250cc racing motorcycle lying on the asphalt directly in front of him, with which he collided, sending bike and rider skyward and causing him to land ¾ on his shoulder an ¼ on his head, with a big dent in his left foot for good measure.

Aside from champion Dalla Porta winning the race, it needs to be pointed out that three of the main contestants included Jaume Masia (age 19), Celestino Vietti (18) and second place finisher Sergio Garcia, winning his first podium for the Estella Galicia team at the tender age of 16 years.

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Brad Binder led for most of the Moto2 race, and Alex Marquez had no incentive to press him too hard, content to follow in second to secure the title.

Moto2 was all Brad Binder, Alex Marquez and Tom Luthi all day. Binder led most of the way, looking great, but there was very little action to speak of. For Luthi and Binder, short of assaulting Marquez on track with a tire iron, all they could do was to go as fast as possible. Winning the podium battle on a day like today is awesome unless one is knowingly, simultaneously losing the war. Kind of like a big old kiss from one’s sister.

MotoGP, which had been billed as a possible Petronas Yamaha clambake, didn’t turn out as expected. The podium of Viñales, Marquez and Dovizioso was a bit of a letdown. A bigger letdown was watching Rossi dog Dovizioso for a full 14 laps without ever finding a way through onto his first podium in 14 rounds. In the olden days Rossi would have found a way around his power disadvantage and de-pantsed a Dovizioso in his sleep. That day has now passed. Morbidelli and Quartararo finished the day sixth and seventh, respectively.

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Maverick Viñales led each lap before taking his second win of the season.

The Suzuki factory boys of Rins and Mir were feeling fractious today. Rins banged into Miller on Lap 7 and lost one of his aero fins, while Miller appeared to have small pieces of his bike falling off for the rest of the day. Later, on Lap 18, Mir hip-checked Zarco out of eighth place and onto the deck, having to take a long-lap penalty afterward that cost him a spot or two. Zarco has been solid on the Honda after a quick handshake and two chaperoned dates. Good for him.

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Johann Zarco crashed, with Joan Mir taking the blame and a long-lap penalty, but so far he has fared pretty well with the LCR Honda team.

Penultimate Tranches

After Phillip Island:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez
Tranche 2: Andrea Dovizioso, Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, Danilo Petrucci, Jack Miller
Tranche 3: Cal Crutchlow, Pol Espargaro, Valentino Rossi, Franco Morbidelli, Alex Rins, Joan Mir
Tranche 4: Aleix Espargaro, Pecco Bagnaia, Miguel Oliveira, Mike Kallio, Johann Zarco
Tranche 5: Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat

After Sepang:

Tranche 1: Marc Marquez
Tranche 2: Andrea Dovizioso, Fabio Quartararo, Maverick Viñales, Jack Miller, Valentino Rossi, Franco Morbidelli
Tranche 3: Cal Crutchlow, Pol Espargaro, Alex Rins, Joan Mir, Danilo Petrucci, Johann Zarco
Tranche 4: Aleix Espargaro, Pecco Bagnaia, Miguel Oliveira, Mike Kallio
Tranche 5: Jorge Lorenzo, Andrea Iannone, Karel Abraham, Hafizh Syahrin, Tito Rabat

Season Finale in Valencia

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With all three Grand Prix championships decided, there will be a distinct lack of drama at the finale in Valencia.

Two weeks until we button things up for the year. I confess to not being terribly interested in the desperate struggles taking place down in the food chain, i.e., which riders are locked in a knife fight for ninth place in Moto2. But the show will go on. We can look forward to the pleasure of seeing some new faces in new places over the winter and next spring. And we here at MO will be beavering away on finding the perfect quote to capture the essence of the season. And if we can’t find one we like, we’ll just make one up.