After a top 3 lockout by Aprilia machines in FP1, the combined times after both of today’s Free Practice saw the same 3 riders end the day at the top, albeit with Sylvain Guintoli (Aprilia Racing Team) edging his team mate and first session pace-setter Marco Melandri and a rejuvenated Toni Elias (Red Devils Roma Aprilia), who remained 2nd and 3rd respectively.
Davide Giugliano (Ducati Superbike Team) moved himself to 4th overall with a late surge displacing reigning champion Tom Sykes (Kawasaki Racing Team) who ended the day 5th and the improving Eugene Laverty (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) who was 6th.
Chaz Davies (Ducati Superbike Team), Jonathan Rea (Pata Honda World Superbike Team), Loris Baz (Kawasaki Racing Team) and Alex Lowes (Voltcom Crescent Suzuki) rounded out the top ten.
Leon Camier (BMW Motorrad Italia) improved from 15th this morning to head the riders in the EVO category in 12th overall, 0.069s ahead of David Salom (Kawasaki Racing Team) who in turn is a fraction of a second ahead of Claudio Corti (MV Agusta RC – Yakhnich Motorsport) and Team Bimota Alstare’s Christian Iddon who completed the top 15.
Fabien Foret (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) currently holds 20th position overall on combined times with one final session to decide the participants in Tissot-Superpole tomorrow morning. Fellow Frenchman Jeremy Guarnoni (MRS Kawasaki) was 21st today and will be looking to find the 0.007s to elevate himself into Superpole 1.
Times: 1. Guintoli (Aprilia) 2’05.096 average 159.660 kph; 2. Melandri (Aprilia) 2’05.167; 3. Elias (Aprilia) 2’05.222; 4. Giugliano (Ducati) 2’05.278; 5. Sykes (Kawasaki) 2’05.283; 6. Laverty (Suzuki) 2’05.356; 7. Davies (Ducati) 2’05.448; 8. Rea (Honda) 2’05.752; 9. Baz (Kawasaki) 2’05.950; 10. Lowes (Suzuki) 2’06.089; 11. Haslam (Honda) 2’06.607; 12. Camier (BMW) 2’06.898; 13. Salom (Kawasaki) 2’06.967; 14. Corti (MV Agusta) 2’06.978; 15. Iddon (Bimota) 2’06.981; 16. Canepa (Ducati) 2’07.166; 17. Morais (Kawasaki) 2’07.262; 18. Badovini (Bimota) 2’07.582; 19. Andreozzi (Kawasaki) 2’07.830; 20. Foret (Kawasaki) 2’08.165; 21. Guarnoni (Kawasaki) 2’08.172; 22. Toth (BMW) 2’08.347; 23. Lanusse (Kawasaki) 2’08.950; 24. Staring (Kawasaki) 2’09.837; 25. May (EBR) 2’10.761; 26. Sebestyen (BMW) 2’10.825; 27. Yates (EBR) 2’11.191.
The World Supersport riders began their Sepang race weekend with an extended 75 minute opening free practice session that was headed by Jules Cluzel (MV Agusta RC – Yakhnich Motorsport).
In hot and humid conditions the initial pace-setter was the MV Agusta, who looked immediately at home at the Malaysian venue having ridden here in the past in other classes.
As the heat and humidity became more intense, Free Practice two ran for the usual 45 minutes and on combined times it was Cluzel who clung on to the top spot despite not improving his time from this morning. His 2.08.423 lap time kept him ahead of the ever improving Ratthapark Wilairot (Core PTR Honda) who was second. The Thai rider also failed to improve his time as did Florian Marino (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpres) who was 3rd overall.
Championship leader Michael van der Mark (Pata Honda World Supersport Team) was the first to improve in 4th ahead of another non improver Kenan Sofuoglu (Mahi Racing Team India Kawasaki) and Roberto Rolfo (Team Go Eleven Kawasaki) who was the second of the improving riders in 6th.
Wildcard rider Zaqhwan Zaidi (SIC Racing Team) impressed in both sessions eventually ending the day in a very credible 11th position on his World Supersport debut.
Tony Covena (Kawasaki Intermoto Ponyexpress) crashed after 20 minutes of FP1, thankfully uninjured. He was able to rejoin the session with only 5 minutes remaning and completed FP2 without further incident. Riccardo Russo also fell this morning whilst running inside the top fifteen. He too was able to take part this afternoon, finishing 18th overall on the combined times. Florian Marino was the only other rider to fall, the Frenchman re-joining the session in the closing minutes.
Times: 1. Cluzel (MV Agusta) 2’09.423 average 154.322 kph; 2. Wilairot (Honda) 2’09.467; 3. Marino (Kawasaki) 2’09.548; 4. Vd Mark (Honda) 2’09.575;5. Sofuoglu (Kawasaki) 2’09.740; 6. Rolfo (Kawasaki) 2’09.821; 7. Coghlan (Yamaha) 2’09.860; 8. Jacobsen (Kawasaki) 2’09.915; 9. Zanetti (Honda) 2’09.980; 10. De Rosa (Honda) 2’10.346; 11. Zaidi (Honda) 2’10.378; 12. Kennedy (Honda) 2’10.659; 13. Leonov (MV Agusta) 2’10.881; 14. Tamburini(Kawasaki) 2’11.050; 15. Bussolotti (Honda) 2’11.068; 16. Nocco (Kawasaki) 2’12.045; 17. Menghi (Yamaha) 2’12.131; 18. Russo (Honda) 2’12.233; 19. Gamarino (Kawasaki) 2’12.312; 20. Rogers (Honda) 2’12.851; 21. Ivanov (Yamaha) 2’13.269; 22. Coveña (Kawasaki) 2’14.164; 23. Calero (Honda) 2’14.171.
It was an excellent Friday for the Aprilia Racing Team at Sepang, a new circuit on the 2014 Superbike calendar. Aprilia dominated the first day with three RSV4s in the top three spots of the combined standings, promising to be a sure protagonist throughout the Malaysian weekend. In fact, behind the two official RSV4s ridden by Guintoli and Melandri, Toni Elias was third on his “satellite” Aprilia.
In afternoon practice Sylvain Guintoli confirmed the great pace he had demonstrated in the first session, extended by 75 minutes in order to give the riders a chance to familiarise themselves with the new track. Finishing the morning session in third place, the Frenchman put the top time on the boards in the afternoon, shaving off almost two tenths of a second. Sylvain was also able to gather comforting data in terms of race pace, despite the fact that a lot of work still needs to be done to find the best setup.
Sylvain Guintoli: “The results are clear today, the RSV4 works really well here. In the last few rounds we haven’t able to use the bike’s full potential, but here we have the conditions to be able to do it and I obviously like that a lot. Not only is our flying lap fast, but our pace is too and it has been since the first session. I am also feeling good on runs over several laps. In short this has been a decidedly positive day from all points of view”.
Second in the combined times after making the best time during morning practice, Marco Melandri is also pleased with the two sessions. Fast and focused, Marco is concentrating on working with used tyres, trying to take the best possible advantage of his RSV4s full potential. In the two sessions before Superpole tomorrow there will be time to try for pure speed, taking advantage of the improved grip conditions as well.
Marco Melandri: “I felt very comfortable straight away on this track. It is a particular track. There isn’t much grip, but we have been working constantly, changing details throughout the last few races, and I’m starting to have a better feeling now. In the afternoon we preferred not to use new tyres because it was very slippery and I’m sure that tomorrow the times will drop quite a bit. We are off to a really positive start for this Malaysian round”.
Eugene Laverty started Voltcom Crescent Suzuki’s tropical eni FIM Superbike World Championship debut at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia today with a solid sixth position in the first day’s practice sessions.
With an extended 75 minutes on-track for the opening session, allowing the riders time to learn the new circuit, Laverty and team-mate Alex Lowes did just that aboard their respective Yoshimura-powered GSX-Rs. Both used the initial half-an-hour to get up to speed, the real business of set-up specifics left for the remaining 45-minute stint. A small crash at turn four in the last 12 minutes of the session, however, left the Irishman little chance to improve and while Lowes finished just inside the top 10, Laverty missed the marker by 100th of a second to hold 11th.
Friday afternoon saw air temperatures soar to 31°C with 70% humidity making it feel much higher and little changed in the times during the opening 20 minutes of free practice two. Lowes was one of the first to improve his lap at the session’s midpoint to take seventh with a 2’06.089 before returning to the pits for a set-up change. The closing minutes saw the times start to tumble with all but two of the front runners improving. Laverty put his Suzuki GSX-R1000 in fifth position with a time of 2’05.356 with just five minutes to go, but was relegated to sixth in the dying minutes by Ducati’s Davide Giugliano. Lowes maintained his 10th-place spot and heads into tomorrow’s final timed free practice session with a solid 31 lap knowledge of the Asian circuit.
Aprilia’s Sylvain Guintoli took the fastest time of the day, just inside the 2’05 barrier.
With marginally cooler conditions forecast for tomorrow’s third free practice session, scheduled at 09:45hrs local time (02:45BST), Voltcom Crescent Suzuki will look to capitalise on the information gained today in a bid to secure its places in the final of the afternoon’s two Superpole sessions. Qualifying begins at 15:00hrs local time (08:00BST) with the top 12 in action at 15:25hrs (08:25BST).
Eugene Laverty: “This morning we were a long way off but this afternoon we jumped-up to within a quarter of a second of the top guys so our bike is working the best it has done in these hot and slippery conditions. We definitely made a step chassis wise. For qualifying I need to be in the top six, like I am now; I need to be on those first two rows! We need to improve the starts because that’s been a real thorn in my side this year, I sometimes go backwards on the first lap and have to work hard to get back, which is too late, so that’s key for tomorrow.”
Alex Lowes: “The track is good, it’s nice to ride at Sepang as it’s a fantastic circuit, but I didn’t feel that good on the bike today, so we need to improve a lot tomorrow ahead of the afternoon’s qualifying. I will put my head together with my Crew Chief Lez this evening to see how we can get closer to the front runners and, after good night’s sleep to process what I’ve learnt today, I’ll be raring to go for the rest of the weekend.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager: “Both team and riders have worked hard in the heat today and in the end settled into a pretty good position as we approach qualifying tomorrow. Eugene had a very small crash this morning, losing the front into turn four, but aside from that his rhythm and the setting of the GSX-R has improved step-by-step and it will have done Eugene’s confidence some good to end the day; on such a long lap, only a couple of 10ths-off first position. His recent testing on the Suzuki MotoGP bike doesn’t appear to have affected his feel for the GSX-R at all and I think we can continue to take decent steps forward tomorrow.
“Alex is a little bit disappointed with his lap time and position but I don’t think he should be. Unlike many of the guys in front of him he’s never seen the Sepang circuit before and it does make a decent difference to knowing the feeling and what should be expected. There are some improvements to make, especially gear ratio choice and the turning of the bike, but I think the biggest help to the performance tomorrow will be coming back to the circuit and understanding how to get round the track quickly.”
Team Hero EBR Report
Team Hero EBR were in action on the opening day at the Sepang International Circuit on the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur as the 2014 World Superbike Championship returned to Asia for the first in twenty years.
Unlike in many of the previous rounds, the fast-flowing nature of the Malaysian circuit was new for the majority of the field, and the longer 75 minute opening Free Practice session helped both riders, Geoff May and Aaron Yates to get up to speed more quickly.
Despite coping with the hottest conditions of the season so far, Geoff and Aaron (who suffered a small crash in FP2) are relishing at riding in the intense humidity that comes with racing in Malaysia.
Geoff May – “It was a positive first session. The heat wasn’t so bad when riding but when you return the garage in the session to make changes wow it hits you. This afternoon we weren’t able to improve our times which was due to some degree with the increase in track temperature but the bike is working really well here so hopefully we can continue to push and make it into Superpole tomorrow, which is the target.”
Aaron Yates – “It’s a shame we had the small crash because the bike was definitely better this afternoon. I’m ok and the bike wasn’t too badly damaged so we will be ready to push again in the morning, it just took too long to get the bike back to the garage this afternoon.”
With the opening day of on track activity completed, the team will review the data with the aim of improving tomorrow morning when the on track action resumes for the final Free Practice session that will determine the top twenty riders in Tissot-Superpole and the remaining grid positions from 21st onwards.
Pata Honda Report
The Pata Honda team had its first taste of the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia today as riders Jonathan Rea and Leon Haslam took their Honda CBR1000RR Fireblade SPs to the famous track for the first time.
Rea ended the day in eighth place and Haslam was eleventh as French rider Sylvain Guintoli set the provisional pole time at the 5.548km circuit that lies 60km to the south of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.
Both riders suffered from low grip levels today, although they were able to improve on their morning times in the second free practice session which took place in the anticipated hot and humid conditions this afternoon, with air temperatures in the low thirties and the track at 41˚C.
Jonathan Rea – P8, 2m05.752s – “It’s disappointing to be this far off on day one. We were able to improve our time with a new rear tyre but generally our base speed needs to improve. The good thing is that it felt quite comfortable when I did my fastest lap. The changes we are making on the chassis are going the right way but we have some engine cutting along the straights when I’m on full throttle. We need to look at that problem because at a track like Sepang it’s quite a disadvantage. I think I’m losing about half a second in the last sector, which includes the back straight. Hopefully tomorrow we can do a better job.”
Leon Haslam – P11, 2m06.607s – “Not a great day, to be honest. We tried a few radical changes on the chassis and we’re still finding our way with that. I’ve had a problem with power delivery today and ran out of time this afternoon. I had a grip problem as well and the one new tyre I tried was spinning up everywhere.”
Pieter Breddels – technical co-ordinator – “Jonathan had various problems in opening free practice this morning which we were able to solve partly for this afternoon. There are still some things to resolve and have a look at but this afternoon he was able to improve his time, despite the hot conditions and low grip levels. For Leon we decided to change the set-up of the bike, both with electronics and with chassis settings. It’s bringing some positives but his overall position has not improved. We’ll keep trying to improve and see what we can get tomorrow.