Bianchi stars as Marussia close on Q2

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Jules Bianchi had another impressive outing for Marussia in qualifying for the Malaysian Grand Prix on Saturday, missing out on Q2 by just 0.497 seconds.

The French driver had shown good pace in practice before qualifying, and he admitted that he felt at home in Sepang despite it being his first visit to the circuit. This good form continued into qualifying as he finished 19th ahead of teammate Max Chilton and both Caterham drivers.

Bianchi was the last driver to post a time during the dry first qualifying session, and he crossed the line to finish 0.880 seconds ahead of Charles Pic. Perhaps an even greater feat was the gap to Valtteri Bottas. The Williams driver qualified 18th, less than 0.250s ahead of Bianchi despite driving for a team which won a race in 2012.

The only rookie to make it into Q2 was Esteban Gutierrez for Sauber, finishing four-tenths clear of the drop zone. He was eventually caught out by the rain that fell midway through the second session, but he will be happy to start 14th on the grid tomorrow.

However, Jules Bianchi is quickly becoming the stand-out rookie from the class of 2013. If he can continue this good form throughout the season, Marussia will have a fight on their hands to retain him for 2014.

Jo Shimoda joins Seth Hammaker, Austin Forkner on injured list; Musquin remains out

Shimoda injured
Feld Motor Sports/MX Sports Pro Racing/Align Media
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Bad news continues to come out of the Monster Energy / Pro Circuit Kawasaki team as they announced Jo Shimoda injured his shoulder in a practice session and will not mount up when the Monster Energy Supercross 250 East division opens in Houston, Texas on February 4. A timetable has not been given for Shimoda’s return, but a press release from the team references multiple weeks.

“I’m doing my best to focus forward on my return to racing,” said Shimoda in the release. “Our goal was to compete for the 250 Supercross Eastern Regional Championship and I know we had been doing the right work to make that happen. Unfortunately, this crash will cause me to miss the start of the season, but I still aim to be back on the track racing for wins before the end of Supercross.”

Shimoda is joined on the sidelines by teammates Seth Hammaker and Austin Forkner, who also suffered injuries in recent weeks.

The news of Hammaker’s sidelining came just two days ago. His wrist injury is sufficient to require surgery, so he too will miss multiple weeks. Hammaker was scheduled to compete in the 250 East division alongside Shimoda.

Forkner was involved in a Lap 1 crash in the 250 West season opener at Anaheim. Multiple injuries, including an ACL tear, will sideline him for the remainder of the season. He described the injury and its aftermath on Instagram.

Forkner will be relieved by Carson Mumford, but not before that rider’s wrist has healed sufficiently. He is scheduled to debut with Kawasaki in Oakland for the rescheduled Round 2 Supercross race on February 18.

Shimoda finished fourth in the 2022 Supercross 250 West division and was second in 2021 points in 250 East. In 2021, Shimoda won his first Supercross race at Salt Lake City. Last year, he scored one podium and six top-fives in nine starts.

Shimoda finished second in last year’s outdoor Lucas Oil Pro Motocross season, where he added two more SuperMotocross wins including the Unadilla Nationals that kicked off a four-race streak of first- or second-place results.

Kawasaki is not the only team facing injury. Red Bull KTM initially reported Marvin Musquin would be out for the San Diego round with a wrist injury and “maybe more”. This week it was announced he will miss this week’s Triple Crown race in Anaheim and “at least the next several rounds.”