Despite the threat of rain throughout the day, the MotoGP riders were able to get two full dry sessions done and dusted in Malaysia, and it was the Suzuki leading the way as the chequered flag came out at the end of FP2.
Rins was the man at the summit thanks to his late FP2 time, with Dovi failing to improve on his FP1 time in the afternoon session – P7 for the Italian in FP2.
Alex Rins – P1
“I’m really happy because the bike was really good today. Our rhythm was strong, even with a used tyre, so we’re feeling hopeful. The bike has actually changed quite a lot since we tested here; it has better top speed and we have a different configuration of aero fairing, so we can clearly see the positive development which has taken place during the season. I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”
Marquez, meanwhile, finished the second session in P2, but the World Champion had an eventful day. In typical Marquez fashion, the number 93 had to save the front of his RC213V numerous times across the two sessions.
Marc Marquez – P3
“All in all it was a good day for us. This morning I felt good, but this afternoon we struggled a lot at the beginning of the FP2 session: I had some moments and had save it a few times. Finally, we changed the front tyre from hard to medium and in the last run we could improve our speed and our lap time. Anyway we need to work very hard on our race pace. We’ll try a different setup in order to see if we may manage better the front tyre. We need to make a step forward is we want to get closer to Dovizioso, who at the moment is the fastest out there.”
There were no such close shaves for fourth place overall and sixth fastest in FP2 Valentino Rossi though, as ‘The Doctor’ had a strong Friday to end the day so close to the top.
Valentino Rossi – P4
“The first day is positive for us, because I was quite fast this morning and also this afternoon. After checking the data on Phillip Island, we worked a lot on the setting of the bike. We tried to improve the grip level, especially from the rear tyre. The first impression is positive, because I was good on a hot lap and also the pace is not so bad. It’s only Friday, so we still have to see, but the start was good. Now we have to concentrate especially on the tyre choice, because it’s still very open, front and rear. We also have to wait and see what the weather will be like. We hope it will remain dry, especially for Sunday.”
Just behind him and fifth on the combined times was Jack Miller on board his Alma Pramac Racing Ducati, the Australian setting a quickest time of 1:59.771 to end FP2 in P3, and Miller was also the first rider to dip into the 1:59s in FP2.
Jack Miller – P5
“I had a lot of fun today and I’m satisfied with what we did in both FP1 FP2. I am very confident because we are fast on both race pace and lap time. Tomorrow we will also have to work on the tyres to find out which is the best choice for the race”.
Meanwhile, Australian GP winner Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completes the day P6 on the overall times, the Spaniard going fourth fastest in FP2 to end the day less than two tenths off P1.
Maverick Viñales – P6
“It’s been a positive day, because I honestly didn’t expect to be so competitive here. Last year I struggled a lot, this is one of the tracks I struggled at the most, but suddenly, when I went out today, I felt really good. In FP1 I had a good rhythm and we have to keep working in that way. I need to concentrate a little bit more on the lines, but there’s not much to work on. We have to put in a good lap for qualifying and then make sure we’re ready for the race. I hope it will stay dry, because I had such a good feeling, but in Japan when I jumped on the bike with wet tyres, I felt strong too. We have to keep focusing on the set-up we have right now, and let’s see what happens. If the race is wet, I hope we will have had the chance to work on the wet set-up before then. The level this year is much higher and we’re already pushing and putting in time-attacks in FP1, so that’s why the lap times are so fast.”
Just 0.009 behind him at the end of Friday’s proceedings sits Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), P7 overall for the Italian thanks to his FP2 time, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) improving by over half a second in the second session to end Friday in P8.
Danilo Petrucci – P7
“We are in good shape in terms of speed but I don’t know if we can be as fast lap by lap on race pace. When the tyres start to heat up I feel a vibration that makes me lose grip. I haven’t tried the soft tyre yet and we’ll do it tomorrow. There’s a lot of confidence for qualifying”.
Johann Zarco – P8
“The first day in Malaysia has been very difficult for me. The base we had, even if we did the winter test, was not working here and I was pretty slow. Fortunately at the end of the session this morning, I could improve my lap time and be inside the top 10. Also in the afternoon I was in the top 10 at the end of the practice, but we are struggling a lot with the traction, with the rear grip. We try to work on it, but we couldn’t find a good solution yet. Therefore, I’m a bit worried for the rest of the weekend. I keep pushing, though it’s just another experience to take with this bike at this circuit. I hope we can find something that helps for the next days and be ready for the race. It’s a track I like, so I would love to have a decent feeling.”
Completing the provisional automatic Q2 places were Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in P9 and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro in P10 – the latter struggling with grip in the afternoon.
Andrea Iannone – P9
“The weather here always makes things more difficult, and it’s very hot today like every year. We struggled a bit in the morning but in FP2 I could improve, we need to continue to work because I still have room for improvement in braking and acceleration. We’ll try our best and find the solutions so I can be quicker tomorrow. But I’m in the Top 10 and Q2 at the moment and that is a good sign.”
Aleix Espargaro’ – P10
“I am happy with the way things went today. I continued using the upgraded bike and I had a good feeling straight away, especially in the morning. In FP2 I managed to be rather fast with used tyres. We need to work a bit more on grip at the rear, but overall, things are not bad. When I put on the soft tyre toward the end, on the other hand, something didn’t work. The grip was not what I expected, so I was unable to lower my time. In any case, a combined top 10 spot is a good start to the weekend for us.”
Dani Pedrosa – P11
“Today we had not really a good feeling. No much grip on the rear and we also struggled a lot in turning. I could not make the pace I would like to have here. In the afternoon we improved the lap time but the grip was even worse. We need to improve the bike’s setup because so far we have not the feeling we had in the test. We must to figure out what to do for tomorrow and keep working hard. It will be important to go out tomorrow and try to improve.”
Local favourite Hafizh Syahrin, who is the only rider of the permanent MotoGP field, who had not tested this year before the Grand Prix at the Sepang International Circuit, had the difficult task to make up for this in just two sessions today.
Hafizh Syahrin – P18
“Today has not been easy. This morning I felt comfortable and we weren’t too far. In the afternoon, we changed the suspension on the bike to improve, but it doesn’t seem to be the right way. I feel a bit confused, because we have a rhythm, we have ok grip, but the bike doesn’t want to turn, so it’s really difficult. This afternoon we will analyse everything in order to make an improvement for tomorrow. We believe we can do it, but we need to find a good way.”
Returning from injury, Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) endured a tough opening day. The five-time World Champion finished bottom of the timesheets and over three seconds adrift of the fastest time, and will further assess his fitness on Saturday.
2018 MotoGP – Sepang Friday Combined Practice Times
RINS Alex SPA Team Suzuki Ecstar 1’59.608
DOVIZIOSO Andrea ITA Ducati Team 1’59.697 / 0.089 (FP1)
MARQUEZ Marc SPA Repsol Honda Team 1’59.701 / 0.093
ROSSI Valentino ITA Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 1’59.767 / 0.159 (FP1)
MILLER Jack AUS Alma Pramac Racing 1’59.771 / 0.163
ABRAHAM Karel CZE Angel Nieto Team 2’01.684 / 2.076
REDDING Scott GBR Aprilia Racing Team Gresini 2’01.690 / 2.082 (FP1)
LUTHI Tom SWI EG 0,0 Marc VDS 2’01.743 / 2.135
SIMEON Xavier BEL Reale Avintia Racing 2’01.900 / 2.292
TORRES Jordi SPA Reale Avintia Racing 2’01.940 / 2.332
LORENZO Jorge SPA Ducati Team 2’03.204 / 3.596 (FP1)
Friday at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix belonged to Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in the Moto2 class, as the 2014 Moto3 Champion topped both FP1 and FP2. The Spaniard managed to best Fabio Quartararo (MB Conveyors – Speed Up) at the end of FP2 by 0.030 after setting a 2:06.928 on his final lap so it was close but he kept the top spot, with Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46) third – 0.161 back. He was just ahead of teammate and Championship leader Francesco Bagnaia and the two did a good few laps together on track, perfecting their teamwork…
The track conditions were tricky for the opening minutes of the second session but with the rain clouds clearing, the Moto2 field were able to get a good dry stint on Friday afternoon. At the end of play, Marquez and Quartararo were the only two riders to venture into the 2:06s, the latter improving from a P13 finish in the morning, but it was Bagnaia who had the advantage in terms of the title fight – with sole rival Miguel Oliveira (Red Bull KTM Ajo) a little further back in eighth.
Between the two, it was Mattia Pasini (Italtrans Racing Team) who completed the top five on Friday and the Italian led FP2 by over a second at the one point after ending FP1 in P2. Then the first of the KTMs on the timesheets was Sam Lowes (Swiss Innovative Investors) in P6, as he just got the better of Oliveira.
Behind the Portuguese rider, Pons HP40’s Lorenzo Baldassarri completes Friday in P8, with Remy Gardner (Tech 3 Racing) kicking off his weekend with a solid P9 on the combined times – the Australian consolidating a top ten place after ending FP1 in P7.
Remy Gardner – P9
“It has been a pretty good day here. This morning it was still patchy when we went out, but we put the slick in when there was still some water on track and we ended up seventh, which was quite decent. Before FP2 it was raining, so everyone went out with wet tyres and of course we did the same, but the track was completely dry after it dried up in just some seconds. We came back in, put some old slicks back in, did a run and improved on our time from this morning. At the end, we put in the soft tyre and made a big step forward. We still need a bigger jump for tomorrow, but I think we’re on the right track after a good start. We just have to see how the weather plays out.”
Australian GP winner Brad Binder rounded out the top ten on board his Red Bull KTM Ajo machine, moving up the timesheets after a tougher FP1.
Joan Mir (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) had a late crash at Turn 15 in the afternoon – rider ok.
2018 Moto2 – Sepang Friday Combined Practice Times
Tony Arbolino (Marinelli Snipers Team) ended Day 1 at the Shell Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at the top of the timesheets in the Moto3 class, with the Italian setting a 2:14.227 on a dry Sepang International Circuit before the rain started to fall with just under 20 minutes remaining, curtailing the day’s action. John McPhee (CIP – Green Power) and Aron Canet (Estrella Galicia 0,0) completed the top three, with Championship leader Jorge Martin (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) rounding out a top four covered by a mere 0.024 seconds.
After his huge Japanese GP crash, Niccolo Antonelli (SIC58 Squadra Corse) returns to action in Malaysia still nursing his injuries picked up in Motegi but nonetheless, the Italian impressed on Day 1 to end fifth fastest, just 0.122 off the top. Countryman Andrea Migno (Angel Nieto Team Moto3) completed Friday another tiny margin in arrears, 0.003 back in P6, with the same gap separating him from another Italian in P7: Enea Bastinaini (Leopard Racing). Title contender Marco Bezzecchi (Redox PruestelGP) is eighth overall, but the gap is just 0.155 between him and the fastest time.
Ninth quickest was fastest rookie Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0), with Australian GP winner Albert Arenas (Angel Nieto Team Moto3) rounding out a top ten that was covered by only 0.321 in Malaysia. P3 in the Championship, Fabio Di Giannantonio (Del Conca Gresini Moto3) finished Friday in P13.
2018 Moto3 – Sepang Friday Combined Practice Times
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