It’s hard to tell if the jet lag is responsible for my almost hourly wake-ups at night, or if it’s the gallons of water we have been drinking, trying to stay hydrated in the oppressive heat of Kuala Lumpur. It’s also hard to fathom that Malaysia gets hotter than this, but it does — that’s the nature of an equatorial climate though.
It seems difficult to imagine, but this really is the most ideal time of the year to run the Malaysian GP. Sure there is the torrential rain that comes with the 90ºF temperature and its 50% humidity, but the summer months are even hotter. With track temperatures approaching 130ºF now already, we would have riders dropping like flies in June, July, and August.
It’s an attribute that comes with the track, just like how Qatar has its lights, Phillip Island has its mercurial weather patterns, and Laguna Seca has its Corkscrew turn. It is a part of what makes Sepang International Circuit a special venue, and part of what tests the mettle of the riders.
We wouldn’t know any of this first-hand though, as we have yet to be at the track so far in this trip. I have to remind myself that we are playing tourist for our Malaysian hosts, here more to experience the country than to report on the grand prix (thankfully, A&R has David and Tony for that job).
Instead Day Four sees us soaking up some more staples of KL culture, and of course us four American journalists singing for our supper…almost literally.
If you wanted a demonstration of just why the weather at Sepang can play such a decisive factor, you need look no further than MotoGP FP2. Fifteen minutes before the MotoGP bikes were set to take to the track, the Moto3 machines were finishing their second free practice session in sunshine and sweltering heat.
But a couple of minutes before MotoGP FP2 was meant to start, the heavens opened, producing a deluge that had first-time visitors to Malaysia hunting around for gopher wood with which to build a boat.
The downpour covered the track in several centimeters of standing water, making it impossible to ride. The session was delayed for twenty five minutes, starting after the rain had nearly eased up completely. Once the session got underway, the weather cleared up completely, the last ten minutes taking place in glorious sunshine once again.
The changes in the weather had a dramatic effect on the state of the track. It went from being fully wet, with water everywhere, to having just a thin layer of rainwater on it at the halfway mark, to being dry at most of the corners around the track once the session ended. Full wets were essential at the start of the session, but forty five minutes later, slicks were starting to become a viable option.
Another week, another eight-hour flight, another race track. Sepang comes as the last of three grueling weekends chasing around the Pacific Ocean to race in Japan, Australia, and now Malaysia.
Even from the comfort of my European home (I lack the funds and, to a lesser extent, the inclination to pursue the paddock halfway around the world), it has been a tough schedule, and the riders and team members I have spoken to about it are all just about ready to come home.
Nearly a month away from home, sharing flights, hire cars and hotel rooms can be grating even for the best of friends. Add in the stresses and tensions of Grand Prix motorcycle racing, and a lot of people are gritting their teeth and doing their best not to punch the people they work with. Some will even make it home without doing so.
The final leg of MotoGP’s odyssey sees the circus travel from Phillip Island, nearly halfway to the South Pole, to Sepang, not far north of the equator. Yet though they are a quarter of a world away, the two have one thing in common: weather.
The actual conditions may be different, the cold, changeable climate of Phillip Island a far cry from the sweltering heat of Malaysia, but at both tracks, the weather plays a much greater role in the proceedings than at other tracks. Judging conditions, and preparing for them, is crucial.
The topic of lane-splitting is heating up in California, after the California Highway Patrol (CHP) posted guidelines for the legal practice to its website, and then was forced to remove them after a formal complaint that the posted recommendations constituted the CHP making legal regulations.
Now finishing a year-long study regarding the safety of motorcycles splitting lanes in The Golden State, the CHP has found that lane-splitting is no more dangerous than riding a motorcycle in general, provided a rider doesn’t exceed the flow of traffic by more than 10 mph.
Where have the days gone? Well, the international dateline is partially to blame, as today’s installment of my trip to Malaysia officially comes to you from Thursday, local time. In that timespan, I’ve been on four airplanes, two monorails, and a handful of taxicabs — which really just means that not too much has really happened worth reporting.
The first 24 hours were spent sitting on a plane. First, Delta to get me from Florida to San Francisco (via Atlanta), and then Cathay Pacific to get me from San Francisco to Kuala Lumpur (via Hong Kong). I endured 15hrs from America to Asia in the middle seat, between two lovely elderly Indian ladies, whose names I did not catch, so thus named them Fay and Doris, as it corresponded to their seat letters.
Fay enjoys Bollywood movies like it’s life’s greatest guilty pleasure, while Doris was a no-nonense kind of gal, who took a walk on the wild side this flight with her non-vegitarian meal choices. We became immediate friends during our journey, and promptly never spoke to each other once the landing gear deployed. Tyler Durden was right.
The Husqvarna brand will be returning to the street, as the now KTM-owned motorcycle company will release three street models at the upcoming EICMA show. Husqvarna says that the new models will “give a clear understanding of the future of the brand” — which hopefully means how Husqvarna will define itself differently that being just rebadged KTM.
Already releasing the the Husqvarna FS 450, a 450cc class supermoto, Husqvarna says that one of the three models will be a new large-displacement single-cylinder street bike, and will feature premium components and state-of-the-art technology (traction control?).
Rumors have been hot and heavy that MV Agusta will announce at EICMA that Mercedes-Benz will become a minority shareholder in the Italian motorcycle company. Those talks of investment have been confirmed by our friends at Canada Moto Guide, however in talking to Giovanni Castiglioni, the young Italian said the deal hasn’t been completed yet.
Getting a chance to bend the ear of Castiglioni at the Dragster RR/Brutale 800 RR launch this weekend, CMG’s Costa Mouzouris was told by Castiglioni that “if it happens, I would be the manager of the year; you can imagine it is a big deal for a small company, family owned, to sell a minority share to a huge company like Mercedes.”
The provisional calendar for the World Superbike Championship hasn’t been released yet, but American fans can start planning their pilgrimage to Laguna Seca, as the sole US round has secured its racing weekend. Hosting WSBK July 17th thru July 19th, Laguna Seca is once again host to the premier production racing class.
“We continue to be pleased with the growth of the fan base for the Series,” said Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca CEO & General Manager Gill Campbell. “With the continuation of GEICO as title sponsor, it seems clear that the U.S. motorcycle industry also sees this as an important event in which to reach out to their enthusiasts.”