What is it like when a MotoGP fan gets a chance to watch a race live? Well, here’s a peek into Divyank’s Malaysian GP experience.
As an ardent motorsport fan, I am very particular about keeping a tab on my favourite championships from around the world. For me, the most effective way of doing so is catching a race live on television. And herein lies my dilemma. Though I thoroughly enjoy watching these races on the screen, from a distance, my mind keeps wandering to the thought of just how spectacular the experience would be if I ever got the chance to catch a race live. The last time I had this thought was during the Thailand round of MotoGP, especially because I knew a colleague of mine was there to experience the magic in person. Now, here’s the interesting bit. Just a few days later, Yamaha Motor India gave us a call asking if autoX would like to join them in attending the forthcoming Malaysian GP! And to my utter surprise, I was picked for this expedition. It’s like my thoughts manifested into a reality. Fizzing with uncontrollable excitement, I made my way to Malaysia and, soon enough, found myself roaming around the confines of the Sepang International Circuit (SIC). I sensed the atmosphere was much more energetic than usual, probably because the Malaysian GP was back on the MotoGP calendar after a two-year hiatus. And the fact that more than 1.6 lakh spectators turned up over the race weekend was a testament to the sport’s loyal fanbase there.
As the Yamaha folks got busy arranging our paddock passes on Saturday, other journalists and I began exploring the main grandstand to find a suitable spot for watching the Free Practices (FP3 and FP4). Thankfully, our passes arrived in time for the qualifying sessions. It meant we could now watch the action unfold from right above the team garages, and roam around just behind the pit garages. This was exactly what I was waiting for. As predicted, during my brisk 15-minute walk to the paddock viewing area, here’s what I saw – Yamaha rider Cal Crutchlow (WithU Yamaha RNF) whizzing past me on a scooter, Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) heading into the media centre for his briefing, living legend and eight-time world champion Marc Márquez surrounded by a blizzard of fans waiting for autographs and pictures, and Ducati Lenovo team principal Luigi Dall'igna casually strolling alongside his team riders Jack Miller and Francesco Bagnaia. Now imagine about a day and a half of just this. At one point, I was rendered speechless. Equally excited family and friends calling me up to learn more about my experience had to wait a bit to know how I was feeling – I just could not find a way to put it all into words...
As for the race, it was nothing short of a roller coaster ride. Championship favourites Bagnaia and Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo started the race from 9th and 12th on the grid, respectively, with the latter racing with a fractured finger on his left hand – a result of his crash on the previous day. The race perhaps took a decisive turn on Lap 7 as race leader & polesitter Jorge Martin (Pramac Ducati) crashed out on Turn Five. From this point, the top three – Bagnaia, Enea Bastianini & Quartararo, respectively – were in a race of their own. Ultimately, Bagnaia scored the win, but thanks to Quartararo’s valiant effort, the riders‘ championship, at least on paper, will conclude at the championship finale in Valencia.