Team Gresini and the rest of the MotoGP World Championship make an emotional return to the Sepang International Circuit this week, one year on from the tragic death of Marco Simoncelli. The memory of Marco remains as bright as the life he lived and it will be difficult for the paddock to keep their emotions in check when the circuit gates open on Thursday.
The joy of a podium finish in the last round at Motegi will certainly help the mood in the Team San Carlo Honda Gresini garage, where Marco’s absence will be most keenly felt. Alvaro Bautista and his crew performed brilliantly at the home of Honda, working intensively with Showa as they have done all season to provide a solution to the Spaniard’s lack of feel for the front suspension. There is clearly still much work to be done, but a podium was just what the team needed before travelling to Sepang, a circuit that should be well suited to Alvaro’s riding style.
Bautista has not finished out of the top ten any race he has finished this year and his late season consistency has been impressive. It has put him a career high fifth in the championship with three races remaining.
He benefitted more than most from the six days of testing in Sepang this past winter. The San Carlo Honda Gresini team is the only MotoGP squad using Showa suspension, putting all the development work on the 27-year-old Spaniard. The two three-day tests gave him valuable data that he will put to use this weekend. The last time Bautista raced in Sepang, in 2010, he finished fifth, which tied his season best. He also has a pair of victories in the 250cc class, 2006 and 2008.
The Sepang International Circuit was designed by German architect Hermann Tilke and built in 1999, when it held a round of the MotoGP World Championship for the first time. It has been home to the series every season since.
Alvaro Bautista “I was delighted with the result at Motegi in Honda’s home race, on a weekend when I agreed a new deal with Gresini Racing for 2013. To be a part of the first ever all-Spanish podium in MotoGP and to move up to fifth in the championship just capped it all off. There were plenty of reasons to celebrate and I was happy to do so with the team, who have continued to believe in me during some difficult times. We have done a great job along with the guys at Showa and even though our problems are not 100% solved we are on the right way.
Now we go to Sepang in good form, but with a heavy heart because of the events of last year. The track itself suits our bike and my riding style, so we will work hard from the first lap to find the best possible setting for the race and then give our best as always to hang on to the guys at the front and maybe even repeat the result from Japan.”
Fausto Gresini “The fact we finished on the podium at Motegi, the home of Honda, gave extra value to an outstanding performance from Alvaro. Japan is a special place for our team and to add another fantastic result to our past success there was wonderful. Now we go to Sepang, which won’t be easy for us after the events of last year, which left a void that can never be filled. Marco was a special person to all of us and we miss him a lot, but I am sure that is the case for everybody connected to the World Championship. We see that with the affection that continues to be shown for him wherever we go. With heavy hearts we will give our best this weekend to honour his memory and we are in good shape to do just that. Alvaro, the team and Showa have between them found the missing piece of the jigsaw and even though there is still a lot of work to be done we have found the path to follow.”
Source: Gresini Racing / Honda Pro Racing