Shell Advance Malaysian MotoGP Review for Paul Bird Motorsports’ Michael Laverty

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The Shell Advance Malaysian MotoGP at Sepang Circuit outside of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia was probably the easiest of our 3 race Australasian tour. Unlike Japan and Philip Island, we had no problem getting in on schedule and checking in to our hotel on Tuesday and Wednesday setup at Sepang Circuit was a breeze. Our hotel in Kuala Lumpur tied with Japan for the best accomodations on the 18 race MotoGP tour- while the hotel in Japan was closer, our hotel in Kuala Lumpur had a golf course and incredible food, with an outdoor bbq every night that we gorged ourselves on when we got back every night. After setting up the Rapid Solicitors Paul Bird Motorsports pit Box on Wednesday, we had a little time to goof off, so Michael Laverty, Victor Morgado Perez and I went to the driving range and shagged a few buckets of balls before dinner. Generally, when we’re on the road, we’re working so hard that when we’re done for the day, we’re all dead tired; it was nice to have a little free time to relax and recuperate.

Thursday, Phil made the call to go back to ML1 for the weekend, so Victor and I went to work prepping it for Michael to use for Friday MotoGP Free Practice. Once we’d gotten it cleaned and prepped, we then put in a high-time motor in ML2 for back up duty, with the intention of replacing it with a lower time Spec-4 motor on Friday night. Everything went together like clockwork and we were able to get back in time to hit the BBQ buffet back at the hotel.

Friday’s MotoGP FP1 & FP2 went reasonably well, everyone had dropped their times due to the heat on the track and the tires building up quite a bit of heat. This definitely worked to our advantage, as the hot temps minimized our chassis’ deficiencies and Michael Laverty’s results showed on the time sheets, finishing 20th and 19th, respectively. During the sessions, we swapped spring rates a bit, but most of the effort went into the electronics, putting power back into the strategies to take advantage of the increased levels of grip that the 41º C (105.4º F) MacAdam delivered to our Bridgestone tires. After having to take out power due to the cold, deliviring more power was a nice nice switch.

Saturday morning, due to the heat, we decided to run the hard compound Bridgestone tires, as the mediums were getting a little greasy. We made a few spring rate changes and ride height adjuatments to Ml1 in an effort to improve turnin characteristics. Michael was getting comfortable and going really well in the session, with the lap times dropping  until the rear got away from him and then the front in T3, a really fast right hander. That set us back quite a bit, now we had to rush to get ML2 ready for MotoGP FP4 and Q1! Michael went out on the spare for FP4; we’d struggled to get everything sorted on such short notice and as a result, Michael Laverty struggled in both sessions. We ended the day with results of 20th in FP3. 19th in FP4 and 20th Qualifying. After qualifying was over, Victor and I went straight to work repairing ML1 and prepping both bikes for action in the MotoGP Main event Sunday, burning the midnight oil until late in the night.

Sunday morning arrived too soon and during the MotoGP Warmup, making sure that both ML1 & ML2 were ready for action was our primary focus and as a result, Michael didn’t go for any heroics and finieshed the session at the bottom of the charts. When the green flag dropped for the MotoGP race, Michael got a great start, quikly jumping a couple places to 18th, but before the first lap had been completed, he’d been shuffled back to 20th. From there, Michael put his head down, repassing Mike Dimeglio & our PBM Aprillia teammate Broc Parkes. He didn’t quite have the pace to keep up with Octo-IODARacing’s Danillo Petrucci, so Michael concentrated on maintaining a steady but fast pace, without pushing overly hard or taking unnecessary risks. Michael Laverty put his head down in the heat and soldiered on and by the 12th lap, attrition started to become a factor, with Cal Crutchlow pulling off the track with a mechanical, followed by crashes from Nicky Hayden in the T9 Hairpin, followed by Karel Abraham, Dani Pedrosa, Danillo Petrucci and Alex DeAngelis, all crashing out of the race. We ended up in 12th place, our best race of the season, make that, our best race ever!

After the race, we packed up quickly and went back to the hotel for dinner and a few beers. Victor, Michael & I talked about going to the beach Bar for the Red Bull MotoGP afterparty, but after a couple of beers, I was too exhausted. After a bit over 3 weeks on the road, I am juat excited to get back home to Luxembourg, see my girls and rest up for the season finale in Valencia. Michele will be joining me in Spain, then I’ll be heading to the Canary Islands for Michael’s stag party, followed by his wedding to his long-time fiancee, Jodie Lee Davies. After that, I’ll be back home in Florida for Christmas, but I’ll save that for another post!

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