The sun was shining all morning at the Sepang International Circuit, but just before the MotoGP Malaysian Grand Prix was about to start, the forecasted rainstorms arrived. The mechanics of Reale Avintia Racing had to work against the clock to change the settings for a wet race, while the riders, Hector Barbera and Loris Baz, wondered if the bad feelings of Friday in the wet would come back again.
Baz made up his mind in the sighting lap and switched to the Michelin’s softer compound of the rear tyre, even though he knew that it would not last the whole race. But the Frenchman took the risk and it paid off, at least at the beginning of the race, where he had a great comeback that took him from 17th position on the grid to the ninth in the first lap. After a good fight with Valentino Rossi and Álex Rins, the Reale Avintia Racing rider was sixth, but on the sixth lap of the race he pushed the front too much and crashed.
His teammate Héctor Barberá tried to play it safe and preferred to start with the medium rear compound, but was left with not enough grip during the entire 20-lap race. He nevertheless managed to stay on two wheels and finally scored two points with his 14th position.
The 2017 MotoGP World Championship concludes at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit, where the Valencia Grand Prix will take place in two weeks time.
“It was a very difficult race. From the beginning, I struggled because I made the wrong tyre selection and it was like riding on ice. I decided to start with the harder tyre, the same one I used last year when I finished fourth here, but this time it was impossible to go fast. I think the track today just suited the soft compound. I also realised as early as in the warm-up lap that the bike was very stiff. During the whole race, I had very bad feeling and I just focused on finishing the race. It’s a shame, because we had a good chance to make a good result today. Now we left it for Valencia, which is the last race of the championship, my home race and also the last race with my team.”
“Finally we had a wet race and coming onto the grid with the hard rear tyre, I had no feeling, like on Friday. That’s why we decided to race with the soft, although we knew that it would be difficult to save the tyre until the end as it likely to overheat. But we took the risk and I thought that I would be able to do a few laps with confidence, attack and then manage the advantage until the end. In the warm-up lap I saw immediately that the rubber was working really well. I had a great comeback in the first lap, up to ninth place, and I had a great time battling with everyone. At least once in my life I have been able to fight side by side with Rossi…it was great! Then the tyre got very hot and I pushed hard with the front and made a mistake. I got into a corner very fast and in order to slow down more, I downshifted and then I crashed. It’s a shame, but I’m still satisfied, because it was either this or finish in the last place, struggling for all the race. “