With just two rounds left in the season, MotoGP comes to Sepang this weekend for the Malaysian GP. Dominating the Free Practice sessions, Honda clearly has the Asian track’s number, while the rest of the field shows signs of a long season. Hector Barbera leads the walking-wounded, as the Spanish rider has fought through the race weekend, nursing his stapled shoulder through each session. Barely able to complete a few laps at a time, there are serious doubts about the Mapfire Ducati rider’s ability to ride the full-race distance, though no one is questioning his determination.
While Barbera will likely give the race his best effort, Rizla Suzuki wild card John Hopkins has already thrown in the towel, as the extreme physical demands have aggrivated Hopper’s hand injury beyond his tolerance. In the Yamaha tent, Jorge Lorenzo is of course absent, after his traumatic finger injury in Phillip Island. Replaced by Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga, Lorenzo’s absence and an ailing Ben Spies have made Sepang another forgettable race weekend for Yamaha Racing. Still sore from his high-speed crash in Australia, the American Spies has noticeably not been himself, with his chest and ribs still bothering him considerably. The one glimmer of hope for Yamaha in Malaysia has been Colin Edwards, who has been one of the few riders able to mix things up with the four factory Hondas.
Though grip issues from the intense heat have plagued the field throughout the weekend, Sepang has otherwise provided MotoGP with perfect weather for the Malaysian GP. The heat has been a mixed bag for Ducati Corse, as Valentino Rossi and his crew have noticeably been off the pace, and not able to capitalize on the team’s off-season testing at Sepang. Meanwhile, Nicky Hayden has been shining on the Ducati Desmosedici GP11.1, as the American and former-World Champion has been the Italian bike to beat, and have been showing strong second row potential. How would everyone sort out in qualifying though? You can find out after the jump.