MotoGP riders brace for heat, rain in Malaysia
Repsol Honda Team's Spanish rider Dani Pedrosa (L) speaks during a press conference ahead of the upcoming Malaysian Grand Prix MotoGP at Sepang on October 10, 2013
Temperatures can soar well above 30 degrees Celsius at the 5.5-kilometre (3.4 miles) Sepang International Circuit, which lies outside Kuala Lumpur and is one of the longest tracks in the season.
There is also a high chance of a heavy afternoon downpour -- which last year forced the 20-lap race to be cut short, with Spain's Dani Pedrosa, a Honda rider, winning.
"It will be difficult on Sunday," race season leader Marc Marquez, 20, said. "The wet conditions will be for everybody, but sure, I prefer (the) dry."
Fellow Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo, who ranks second in the standings, has said it would be "almost impossible" to defend his championship crown unless "something special" happened, with him trailing 39 points behind the Honda rookie.
"The rain is a key factor always for strange things happening. So we have to concentrate to win the race... and wait for some special thing to happen," the two-time world champion and Yamaha rider said.
Safety is another concern in Sepang following MotoGP rider Marco Simoncelli's death in a crash during the race two years ago, and two fatalities in an accident late last month.
Sepang officials insist the track is safe and that the deaths were "tragic" accidents. Authorities have also reviewed the track and given it the green-light.
Seven-time world champion Valentino Rossi said Sepang, which is built on what was once jungle, was one of his favourites.
The riders have already tested their bikes at Sepang twice earlier this year as part of their regular pre-season tests.
"The temperature will be difficult throughout the weekend. (But) it's great fun to ride here," the Italian Yamaha rider said.
And despite its challenges, Sepang -- which has hosted the MotoGP since 1999 and has attracted increasingly large crowds -- will stay on the calendar.
Officials announced Friday that the track would host the race for a further three years until at least 2016.
Rossi now ranks fourth in the standings, and Pedrosa is third. After Malaysia, there are three races left in the season.