The first edition of the 8 Hours of Sepang has all the hallmarks of a spectacular race: top riders, experienced teams, a compelling starting grid and a fantastic circuit. This exciting new FIM Endurance World Championship race gets underway at 1pm local time (GMT+8).
Yamaha Sepang Racing, who are tipped as the favourite, have won the first part of their bet. As the Sepang International Circuit squad, they are playing on home ground, and will start from pole position at the 8 Hours of Sepang. Franco Morbidelli, Hafizh Syahrin and Michael van der Mark dominated the qualifying and the Top 10 Trial.
Honda Asia Dream Racing with Showa sprang a surprise to claim second place on the grid thanks to their Moto2 rider, Thailand’s Somkiat Chantra, who set a blistering pace in the Top 10 Trial. He is partnered by Malaysian rider Zaqhwan Zaidi and Indonesia’s Andi Farid Izdihar. The Japanese team managed by Makoto Tamada frequently features among the Suzuka 8 Hours top 10.
F.C.C. TSR Honda France is third on the grid ahead of a clutch of full-season FIM EWC factory teams who will bring all the weight of their experience to the race. Webike SRC Kawasaki France, BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team, YART Yamaha and Team ERC Endurance are in fourth to eighth place.
The challenges of a first-time race
It will be an intense race for Ilya Mykhalchyk and Markus Reiterberger in the saddle of the BMW Motorrad World Endurance Team bike, as they will be racing as a two-man team due to Kenny Foray’s injury. Six other teams will be racing the 8 Hours of Sepang with two riders instead of the usual three.
YART Yamaha might have been one of them in the absence of Marvin Fritz, also forced to withdraw after a crash, but the Austrian team has recruited Karel Hanika, initially slated to ride Maco Racing Team’s Yamaha, as a stand-in.
For Team ERC Endurance, the new Ducati-mounted factory EWC team, the challenge will be to take the Panigale V4R as high up the race rankings as possible with riders Ondrej Jezek, Randy de Puniet and Louis Rossi.
Rounding off the Top 10 on the starting grid are BMW Sepang Racing, a serious contender with riders Azlan Shah Kamaruzaman, Adam Norrodin and Julien da Costa; consistent performer VRD Igol Pierret Experiences, and Poland’s Wójcik Racing Team, a squad to watch since the Bol d’Or.
Bol d’Or winner Suzuki Endurance Racing Team start from 11th place, but will undoubtedly lose no time joining the fray in the lead. Vincent Philippe, a SERT rider for the past 16 seasons, will be racing his final race in the saddle of the French team’s Suzuki.
The first two Superstock teams – Japanese team Tone RT Syncedge 4413 BMW and French squad Moto Ain – are in 12th and 13th place on the grid, and set to lock horns in the race.
The non-Asian Superstock teams are making their first foray outside of Europe. The fifteen teams will experience the hot and humid Malaysian conditions for the first time.
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