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Despite a truly dominant mid-part of the season for Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS), the pressure was starting to build for the points leader on the flyaways, and the two men coming in hot were Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) and Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP). But the number 73 kept cool in the searing heat of Sepang to take a tenth podium of the year and become a two-time World Champion, so now it’s about the fight for second – and the final win of the year.
"Not 'the brother of', he's Alex Marquez, World Champion"
Marquez is now free of the pressure that seemed to tame a few of his recent races, so he’s pencilled in as a favourite from the off – especially given it’s home turf. But then Binder is on a serious roll and looking for his third win in a row, and Lüthi only trails the South African by four points as they squabble over the position at present. And the pendulum could swing either way in that battle all too easily, but in reality it’s not quite a duel, because Jorge Navarro (MB Conveyors Speed Up) remains in with a long shot at second – and he’s racing on home turf.
The Valencian has had an impressive season in 2019, with seven podiums so far and one more chance to take another. He’s yet to take a win in the intermediate class though, and now would surely be the time to do it. Not only in front of his home fans, but also for the standings as he’s 24 points off Binder, meaning winning is all that will do.
Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40) similarly faces a long shot as well, but his is for fourth overall. After a tougher few races on the flyaways the Spaniard will be back racing on familiar turf, and that’s often seen him soar. He’ll also need to keep one eye on Luca Marini (Sky Racing team VR46) though, with the Italian 15 points behind him and still able to upset the home party. But then Marini has a target on his back too: Lorenzo Baldassarri (Flexbox HP 40) lurks 11 points behind. The fight for second seems unlikely to get away without interference for Binder, Lüthi and Navarro…
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The fight for Rookie of the Year is another one going down to the wire. With the three men in contention all crashing in Sepang, the battle rolled on to the finale and it’s Fabio Di Giannantonio (MB Conveyors Speed Up) who arrives ahead. He’s six points clear of earlier season leader and compatriot Enea Bastianini (Italtrans Racign Team), with home hero Jorge Martin (Red Bull KTM Ajo) facing a steeper climb from third. It’s the final race, so one will come out on top once and for all – but which one?
The fight for second and the fight for Rookie of the Year keep the standings on high alert as we head into the season finale. Is it time to see Marquez unleashed? Binder winning three in a row? Lüthi fighting back? Or can Navarro take that final win of the year and his first in the class? There’s also a new face to keep an eye on – American Sean Dylan Kelly, who debuts with American Racing KTM. What can he do as he pits out on the world stage? Find out in the Gran Premio Motul de la Comunitat Valenciana on Sunday, at 12:20 local time (GMT +1).
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