Eighth here in Malaysia – if it feels like I always finish eighth here it’s because I nearly always do, that’s five times in the last six races here! Today’s race though, that’s a bit of a head-scratcher because it wasn’t one where I nearly ran off, did anything silly, nothing like that. Eighth was just our pace, that was where we were compared to the Ducatis, at least the three guys on Ducatis up the front anyway.
When you finish 19 seconds off the win after 20 laps, it shows you the homework we still need to do. I suspected after the Sprint that we’d have a bit more for those boys at the front on Sunday, but they could pretty much run Sprint race pace the whole Grand Prix race while we’re ending up nearly a second a lap off. Those three at the front just left, and we were left hanging around there for second-best, you could say.
It wasn’t my best race or my worst race … I didn’t feel like I did anything wrong and rode pretty solid, the pace was half-decent. I had (Ducati’s Marco) Bezzecchi in front of me and was eyeing up a move on him, but couldn’t get close enough to even attempt anything so I was kind of stuck at that pace. As the race wore on I got the front-end too hot and dropped off him, and at the end of the race the Yamahas came past, I tried to do what I could to keep them at bay but they had plenty of grip towards the end and I wasn’t able to fight.
It’s a bit further back than we wanted, but a solid weekend after Thailand for me, which is what I needed as that one was a bit of a disaster really. The steps that we made on the bike and the feeling I had with the bike was good, and I was running in the (1min) 59s in the beginning and then stayed in the two-minute range, which in any other year would be half-decent around here. Unfortunately today, we were missing around a second a lap to the three at the front.
Being back here in Malaysia was good for me as it’s the first repeat track for me on the KTM. Because we’d tested here before the season, I was keen to see how I’d get on. It’s a place I like and a place I felt confident we could do good at, plus being back on the normal rear tyre again was a positive. I always enjoy Sepang and I definitely notice the extra support around the track, it’s a nice easy event for the Aussie fans to get to, a little bit of a second home race! It’s not every race I get that feeling so it makes it more enjoyable, definitely.
We’re getting towards the end of the season now, so it’s logical I was asked about the KTM after nearly one year on it and what it does and doesn’t do well. It’s hard to say because it does kind of everything well, you can’t say ‘it does this terrible or that terrible’ because it’s not really like that. MotoGP bikes in 2023 all do something pretty fantastic, to be honest. I feel we’re finally understanding how to set up the electronics side of things heading into a weekend before we get on the bike a bit clearer now, so that’s a bonus being able to got into a weekend being able to set a plan up a bit easier rather than just winging it. You’re always looking for micro-tenths (of a second) at this stage of the year – braking could always be a little bit better, acceleration a little bit better, more top speed … so I’m happy with it on the whole. There’s always things you can look to improve, tiny things, but that’s easier said than done. Understanding the front more and being able to carry some more corner speed would be nice, but it doesn’t feel like we’re miles off being able to do that.
Anyway, we’ll keep working, and I’ll try to get better as well with set-up and maximise what we can for these last two in Qatar and Valencia.