- POSTED: 10 Oct 2013 16:00
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MotoGP front-runner Marc Marquez escaped a grid penalty on Thursday over a high-speed collision, boosting his chances of extending his championship lead this week in Malaysia.
KUALA LUMPUR: MotoGP front-runner Marc Marquez escaped a grid penalty on Thursday over a high-speed collision, boosting his chances of extending his championship lead this week in Malaysia.
Officials handed the 20-year-old rookie one penalty point for a contact with Dani Pedrosa, which sent his fellow Spaniard crashing out of last month's Aragon Grand Prix.
But Marquez avoided the heavier fine of two penalty points, which would have forced him to start at the back of the Malaysian Grand Prix grid on Sunday.
Defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who trails Marquez by 39 points in the standings, had earlier urged officials to be tough with the inexperienced Marquez.
Safety is again in focus at Malaysia's Sepang circuit after two people died in an accident last month, two years after the fatal crash of young Italian star Marco Simoncelli.
Marquez said he had put the Aragon incident behind him and was focused on the title fight with just four races remaining, adding he would not change his riding style.
"I want to concentrate on this weekend," he told reporters. "It will be interesting to see the track... We will try to keep the same mentality and the same concentration" for the rest of the season.
Thursday's penalty point, which brings Marquez' season total to three, has no bearing on his championship points.
Besides the penalty, his Honda team was stripped of the constructors' points earned for his victory at Aragon.
In Aragon Marquez, following a braking mistake, touched Pedrosa's Honda and caused his team-mate to lose traction control and come off.
Marquez then went on to rack up his sixth victory of the year, with Lorenzo second.
Lorenzo has totted up five wins in a season interrupted by collarbone injuries after falls in the Netherlands and Germany.
Lorenzo on Thursday said rewarding rash driving would "create a better show for the spectators" but not ensure riders' safety.
The Yamaha rider has previously criticised Marquez as an "aggressive rider who puts himself and others at risk".
Race officials have again promised that the Sepang circuit is safe after a rider hit a marshal late last month during practice for the Malaysian Super Series, killing both.
"The incident... has nothing to do with the safety aspect. It's a tragic incident," Sepang chief executive officer Razlan Razali told AFP.
But he said the mood was still "emotional" at the course. A tribute will be paid to the two men on Saturday.
In 2011 24-year-old Honda rider Simoncelli lost control of his bike and died in an accident at Sepang's turn 11. A bronze plaque was installed at the turn in his honour.
Rain could also mar the race with some 80,000 tickets already sold for Sunday.
A torrential downpour caused the race to be cut short last year, with Pedrosa crowned as the winner.
Lorenzo, who secured his first MotoGP title at Sepang in 2010, said it would be "almost impossible" to catch up with Marquez.
"It's a pity. Now it's more difficult (to win) the championship. Now it's almost impossible, but everything can happen," he said.
Pedrosa is third in the standings while nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi, still mathematically capable of winning this year's title, is fourth.
Rossi said his target was "to stay closer to the top three guys... I'm not strong enough to fight with the three top guys".