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Out of focus but in form

Out of focus but in form

Eyes were transfixed on Marquez and Rossi after their run in during Thursday’s press conference, but it was two others who dominated Friday.

Very few thought that the MotoGP™ World Championship could get any better after the now legendary battle at Phillip Island, but Thursday’s pre-race press conference in Sepang proved there’s still room for tension to build. Valentino Rossi is known for beating his rivals off the track as much as on the track and on Thursday it became apparent that the once joyous friendship between the Italian and Marc Marquez had taken a somewhat sour turn. Rossi’s claims continued after the press conference had finished, questioning Marquez’s motives in the final races and if Rossi had ever really been his idol.

With such explosive claims the press and fans were transfixed on this off track battle and everyone was curious to see how the two would perform during Friday practice. But, it was two other riders who stole the spotlight on Friday as Jorge Lorenzo led from Dani Pedrosa. Just 0.047s split both riders but yet again it seems to be Lorenzo who has the dominant edge in race pace, the MotoGP™ World Championship settling into a now familiar rhythm amongst the off track drama.

Dani Pedrosa had the edge in FP1, leading the session with a 2’00.412 but this was his only sub 2’01s lap of the session. The two long straights of Sepang should suit the Repsol Hondas, the aggressive Honda engine having a slight edge over the smoother Yamaha. But Lorenzo’s race pace was as blisteringly quick as ever, the Spaniard working silently and diligently in the background as eyes were transfixed on teammate and title rival Rossi. In a somewhat uncharacteristic twist, Lorenzo’s runs were short but he was able to set six sub 2’01s laps over the course of the day.

Lorenzo has never won at Sepang in the premier class, but with the pressure of a World Championship on the line past form is often thrown out the window, riders digging deep and pushing themselves to a new level.

Both Pedrosa and Lorenzo have worked quietly, avoiding issues and focusing on the most important part of their jobs: racing. As in Aragon and Motegi, it looks as though many are overlooking Pedrosa, a mistake that proved costly in both races. Rossi accused Marquez of trying to shift the championship away from him, but in both those races Pedrosa took a potential nine points away by beating him.

Then comes the battle between Rossi and Marquez, no longer is Rossi simply fighting Lorenzo for the 2015 title, there’s little doubt Marquez will be more determined than ever to go out and prove he’s winning races for himself and not anyone else. The Repsol Honda rider showed a pace slightly better than teammate Pedrosa’s, many low 2’01s with a run of three consecutive mid 2’00s in FP2. Meanwhile Rossi set a single 2’00.915 across both sessions, the rest of his race pace in the mid to low 2’01s. His best time came during FP1 in the cooler conditions, Sunday's race is scheduled for around the same time as FP2 where Rossi struggled more. Work to do for Rossi, as in many rounds before.

Will Marquez prove Rossi right and help his countryman Lorenzo in the title battle or will Rossi’s words send Marquez into a race winning frenzy? Only Sunday will grant the answer, but right now it looks as though Lorenzo will be the man to beat once more regardless of any new friends, unless the weather again throws up a surprise.

MotoGP, 2015, PRAMAC AUSTRALIAN MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX, FP2, Marc Marquez, Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi

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