Red Bull KTM Factory Racing came away from one of their ‘tougher’ circuits on the MotoGP calendar with more points and another top ten finish as Jack Miller rode to 8th at the Sepang International Circuit. In Moto2™ Red Bull KTM Ajo were proclaimed world champions for the third year in a row as Pedro Acosta finished 2nd to win his second title in just three Grand Prix seasons.
The Sepang International Circuit brought some staple ingredients to the annual hosting of MotoGP in Malaysia and the site 50km south of the center of Kuala Lumpur: stuffy 30+ degree temperatures, a fascinating and tricky 5.5km racetrack, a large and expectant crowd, and teams with knowledge and references from the pre-season test at the same venue but also trying to solve the tire consumption headache for maximum performance.
The Grand Prix took place over 20 laps and with Red Bull KTM looking to see if the 5th and 6th positions aced in the Saturday Sprint by Brad Binder and Jack Miller respectively could be repeated or improved. Both riders launched from the third and fourth rows of the grid and into leading group contention as the field set about establishing an effective race rhythm.
It was a static affair dictated by effective grip. Binder and Miller were wrapped up in a multi-rider battle for 5th but Brad did not reach mid-race distance when he crashed into Turn 11. Jack fought hard to defend 7th but was just pipped to the position on the last lap and took 8th.
Binder has almost confirmed 4th position in the world championship standings for 2023. He is 75 points from 3rd and 54 ahead of 5th with just 74 left to win this season. After two years of consecutive 6th place finishes #33 is heading to a PB in his fourth MotoGP term. Jack Miller sits in 10th. The points accumulated in Malaysia mean that Red Bull KTM Factory Racing are 4th from 11 in the Teams listing. KTM is the 2nd best manufacturer in the series.
The many lights and the impressive setting of the Lusail International Circuit will be switched on for MotoGP next week. The Grand Prix of Qatar takes place at the end of the season compared to the normal opening slot (due to circuit renovations) and MotoGP should find an upscaled but nevertheless challenging Doha-based layout (where Binder was runner-up in 2022) for round nineteen of twenty in a few days.
Jack Miller, 8th: “Long old race. I didn’t quite have enough for those boys ahead and we’re scratching our heads a little bit because that time gap to the front is not ideal in a 20-lap race. I didn’t have any real issues or mistakes that cost me any time; it was just outright pace. So, we’re missing a little bit. I was hanging with [Marco] Bezzecchi for a while but cooked the front tire. We have some work to do and I will try to get better myself as well to see what we can maximize for Qatar and Valencia.”
Brad Binder, DNF: “I had a good warm-up session and felt really good but then just struggled in the race. It was hard to stop the bike and if I carried any corner speed then the front end would wash. It was a fight to stay clean and to try and pick guys off. Unfortunately, I just washed-out in Turn 11 and there is not much more to say. We tried a few different things for the race today and with the heat and the grip level they didn’t really work. Lessons learned for Qatar and moving forward.”
Francesco Guidotti, Red Bull KTM Team Manager: “We were confident of a good race today after the way the weekend had gone and after the Sprint on Saturday but it did not happen. Brad crashed and Jack was doing quite well but not what we were expecting. Both were complaining of the same problems so we have to be more focused on this matter. A strange day and we have to understand how we can be better for Qatar.”
Results MotoGP Grand Prix of Malaysia
1. Enea Bastianini (ITA) Ducati 39:59.137
2. Alex Marquez (ESP) Ducati +1.535
3. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati +3.562
8. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing +19.204
DNF. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing
World championship standings MotoGP
1. Francesco Bagnaia (ITA) Ducati, 412 points
2. Jorge Martin (ESP) Ducati 398
3. Marco Bezzecchi (ITA) Ducati, 323
4. Brad Binder (RSA) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 254
10. Jack Miller (AUS) Red Bull KTM Factory Racing, 156
KTM GP Academy
The roar of Moto3 woke Sepang late Sunday morning for 15-laps and with the KTM GP Academy hunting more trophies around the wide and fast trajectory. Red Bull KTM Ajo duo Jose Rueda and Deniz Öncü sprung from the second and fourth rows of the grid and also counted on Red Bull KTM Tech3’s Daniel Holgado as part of the leading sect: the Spaniard having set one of the fastest lap-times around Sepang on Friday.
The contest was typically tight and impossible to predict until a breakaway of eight riders formed with ten laps to go. The split was caused by David Alonso’s crash that also claimed the unlucky Holgado. Öncü continued to push and Rueda was also part of the podium chase that dwindled to six participants.
A mistake by Rueda into the last corner on lap thirteen took down both himself and Öncü. The Turk was able to remount and make the flag in 12th for some points (the result was later changed to 11th after a rider sanction). The upheaval allowed Filippo Farioli to push through to a very decent 9th and the rookie’s best result to-date; a rank that was later improved to 8th.
A maximum of 50 points is all that remains this season for the candidates pushing for the Moto3 crown in 2023. Holgado is 4th and 41 adrift from leader. Öncü is 5th while Rueda is inside the top ten. KTM’s prolificacy during the season (14 podiums from the GP Academy riders) means they have the Constructors title for the sixth time in the history of the class.
Pedro Acosta’s grip on Moto2 solidified with a well-earned 2nd position in Malaysia. The Spaniard has totaled 7 wins and 14 podiums to confirm the title in just his second season in the category. He has conquered Moto3 and Moto2 world championships in only three years and is now pitched for 2024 MotoGP. Acosta sealed a spectacular campaign for Aki Ajo’s team that means a third straight gold medal for the crew after honors with Remy Gardner (2021) and Augusto Fernandez (2022). Acosta has owned the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup (2020) and surged through the KTM GP Academy quite unlike any racer before him.
Pedro Acosta: “So, so good. It has been a hard two seasons because we suffered a lot last year but thanks so much to all the team. I was trying not to feel the pressure. We were in a good situation with the championship here. I approached the weekend like a normal one and trying to be competitive for Sunday. We’ve been riding more with our heads recently and also making sure of the Teams title as well. It is my third season with Red Bull KTM Ajo motorsport and also my last and I can barely say anything more. We have two GPs now to win a bit more!”
Red Bull KTM Ajo have an unassailable 65-point lead in the Moto2 Teams championship and Albert Arenas’ 9th position result at Sepang helped towards that tally.
Results Moto3 Grand Prix of Malaysia
1. Collin Veijer (NED) Husqvarna 33:30.072
2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna +0.066
3. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda +0.328
8. Filippo Farioli (ITA) Red Bull KTM Tech3 +11.175
11. Deniz Öncü (TUR) Red Bull KTM Ajo +14.095
DNF. Jose Rueda (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo
DNF. Daniel Holgado (ESP) Red Bull KTM Tech3
World championship standings Moto3
1. Jaume Masia (ESP) Honda 246 points
2. Ayumu Sasaki (JPN) Husqvarna, 233
3. David Alonso (COL) GASGAS, 205
4. Daniel Holgado (ESP) Red Bull KTM Tech3, 205
5. Deniz Öncü (TUR) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 195
10. Jose Rueda (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 111
25. Filippo Farioli (ITA) Red Bull KTM Tech3, 7
Results Moto2 Grand Prix of Malaysia
1. Fermin Aldeguer (ESP) 36:04.378
2. Pedro Acosta (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +7.128
3. Marcos Ramirez (ESP) +9.558
9. Albert Arenas (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo +20.004
World championship standings Moto2
1. Pedro Acosta (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 320.5 points (Champion)
2. Tony Arbolino (ITA), 243.5
3. Jake Dixon (GBR), 183
15. Albert Arenas (ESP) Red Bull KTM Ajo, 79