How the Moto2 & Moto3 titles can be won at Sepang
The penultimate round of the 2018 MotoGP World Championship from Malaysia could see the remaining Moto2 and Moto3 crowns secured, as Sky VR46's Francesco Bagnaia and Gresini Moto3 man Jorge Martin stand on the edge of glory.
Bagnaia's hopes of wrapping up the title in the sweltering heat of Malaysia are certainly higher than Martin's, with the Italian 36 points clear of rival Miguel Oliveira after a disappointing Phillip Island race for the pair.
Both failed to make any impression on the top 10, with Bagnaia shadowing KTM's Oliveira home in a joint-season's worst of 12th. With Oliveira unable to capitalise on Bagnaia's off-day, just one point was clawed back by the Portuguese rider – a disappointing haul given teammate Brad Binder won the grand prix.
Sepang fell to Oliveira last year as KTM mounted a late-season victory surge, so the Portuguese rider comes to the Malaysian venue with prior form. However, this was also the case coming to Phillip Island.
Bagnaia's path to the title is simple: finish ahead of Oliveira and the deed is done. Should Oliveira be the point man this weekend, Bagnaia only needs to keep the KTM rider's points gain to 12 to secure the title.
So, if Oliveira wins on Sunday, Bagnaia only needs fourth. Any lower than that, and the battle will rage on to Valencia. But even then, the odds will still firmly be in favour of the Valentino Rossi protege.
The near-futile nature of Oliveira's permutations in some ways could benefit him. Really, his only task now is to go to Sepang and win. That would put Bagnaia under some pressure to make sure he keeps the Portuguese rider at arms' length, and with Binder on great form right now, and a cast of extras such as Lorenzo Baldassarri [Pons], Xavi Vierge [Intact GP] and Joan Mir [Marc VDS] all with no skin in the game, Bagnaia's Sunday becomes a little more complicated that he would like.
At Phillip Island, the Moto3 title battle took yet another extremely dramatic twist, as Marco Bezzecchi was wiped out by Gabriel Rodrigo while battling for the victory having made his way up from 15th on the grid.
This gave fifth-placed Jorge Martin a 12-point advantage leaving Australia, just a week after a crash and victory for Bezzecchi in Japana wiped out his 26-point lead to just one.
Martin's hopes of securing the lightweight class title in Malaysia hinge on him outscoring Bezzecchi by 13 points. In simplest terms, a win for the Gresini man and fifth for Prustel GP's Bezzecchi would give him what he needs to win the championship.
Martin's Gresini Fabio Di Giannantonio still has an outside hope of the title. 20 points down ahead of Malaysia, losing five points to his stablemate will be curtains for his charge.
Sepang's long straights will be prime KTM territory, the revised airbox and exhaust it brought for Mugello making it a bullet in a straight line. This will give Bezzecchi an advantage over the Honda-powered Gresini duo. But the vastness of lead groups in Moto3 will make Sunday's race complicated for the title protagonists, and the way the pendulum has swung this season means there is really no telling what will happen.