IodaRacing rider Lorenzo Savadori went quickest on Friday at Sepang International Circuit, beating Honda’s Nicky Hayden to the top spot by just over two tenths of a second in the final minutes of the second practice session. Kawasaki rider Tom Sykes finds himself outside the top ten on Day 1 and heading through Tissot-Superpole 1 after heading the field in the morning.
Kawasaki Racing Team pairing Tom Sykes and Jonathan Rea were fastest in FP1 as times quickly tumbled, with the KRT duo taking the top spots from Honda WorldSBK team riders Nicky Hayden and Michael van der Mark in the last few minutes of the first session. FP1 saw Ducati riders Chaz Davies and Davide Giugliano out of position on the timesheets outside the top ten, with FP2 left for the Aruba.it pairing to make sure they would graduate to Tissot-Superpole 2.
Leading that charge to Superpole was Aprilia rider Savadori, with the Italian rider putting in a last lap dash to go quickest near the end of the day’s action in FP2. IodaRacing rider Savadori, who has been gaining confidence throughout his rookie season, managed a gap of 0.216 above Sepang veteran but fellow WorldSBK rookie Nicky Hayden after the American put in a series of quick laps.
Markus Reiterberger was another quick rookie on Day 1, with the Althea BMW rider coming home in P3 ahead of Yamaha’s Alex Lowes.
Aruba.it Racing – Ducati rider Davide Giugliano was the fastest Ducati on Day 1 in P5 after improving his FP1 pace, ahead of second Althea BMW rider Jordi Torres. Dutch Honda rider Michael van der Mark was seventh fastest on the opening day, ahead of Imola double winner and second Aruba.it rider Chaz Davies.
Anthony West, riding for Pedercini as replacement for injured Sylvain Barrier, was ninth after FP2 and consequently graduates straight through to Tissot-Superpole 2 in an incredibly impressive first contact with both the bike and newly resurfaced track. The Australian rider eventually went quicker than reigning Champion Jonathan Rea, who ended the day in P10.
Rea, who was second fastest in the morning, just made it through to Superpole 2, edging out teammate Tom Sykes for the last place in the top ten. Rea spent the morning circulating in a similar place on the timesheets until a last lap push saw him move up to P2, however the afternoon session saw the Championship leader under more pressure. Sykes, who had been fastest in the morning, is the big name sent through Superpole 1. The Yorkshireman has a fantastic qualifying record at Sepang International Circuit however, and could even benefit from the extra track time afforded by Superpole 1 as riders get to grips with the new asphalt in Malaysia.
P1 – Lorenzo Savadori IodaRacing
“I’m very happy because I’ve only ridden here on a 125, and Ioda and Aprilia have helped me to improve the feeling with the bike. I’m really happy to be in Superpole 2 but me and the team are focused on the race, especially the second part of the race. For today, I´m happy.”
P2 – Nicky Hayden – Honda World Superbike Team
“Overall it’s been a very positive day for us. From the last race we changed chassis, to another standard one, but maybe we had a little problem with the last one and as soon as I put it in this morning, I had a lot better feel. Overall the day has been very positive. We made a couple of changes as the day went on, but all in the right direction so credit to the team, they did a good job. It would have been nice to be fastest – I know it’s only Friday but it’s always nice to see your name on top! We made a long run in the second session and it was pretty good pace so let’s see tomorrow how much everyone improves and what the track’s like. As it was cooling down at the end the track was getting really grippy.”
P3 – Markus Reiterberger – Althea BMW Racing Team
“Today was a really good day for us. We did a good job in the first free practice and tested a lot on the tyres, suspension and electronics, so I could go into the second practice with a good feeling. A nearly perfect bike so I enjoyed riding it and did a long run, which was not so bad. I feel good, but maybe with have some small problems with the tyres maybe over long distance, but it’s the same for everyone. I went out at the end of the session on a new set of tyres and could do a really fast lap, but that lap wasn’t perfect and I made a small mistake at the last corner and went a bit wide. But I´m in third position and very happy about it.”
Alex Lowes – 4th / 2’04.262 / 29 laps
“Our best Friday position so far this season here at Sepang, as our raw pace and direction was better than it has been for the last few Fridays. We have also highlighted some areas today that definitely need to be improved for race distance, and I need to have more confidence on corner entry, but we have a clear plan now so let’s get our heads down and see if we can improve for tomorrow. The new surface gave a really strange feeling at the start as it’s unusual to progress by over 10 seconds during the day on a dry track! The damp patches and general grip has improved but let’s see what happens tomorrow now it’s rained so heavily.”
Paul Denning – Team Yamaha Principal
“We got lucky today in getting two dry sessions as the big thunderstorm and heavy rain arrived just after the chequered flag of FP2. We certainly missed Sylvain today and the additional information that he could have delivered at a track that he has gone so well at in the past, but Alex did a great job on a very tricky new surface which changed in its grip characteristic almost every outing. No mistakes, full commitment every lap and when it counted Alex put together a couple of very strong laps to get himself towards the top of the timesheets. When rear grip is good in the YZF-R1, as we have seen many times, the lap times come to the riders relatively easily – in fact they can be surprised by how fast they have gone – but we are still trying, with the help of the factory engineers who are in attendance this weekend, to find the best balance in the chassis and electronics to allow Alex to have better confidence on worn tyres. There is not much time to work on that before the first race tomorrow so it will be a case of some educated guesses, qualify as best we can and see what we can do when the lights go out tomorrow afternoon.”
Davide Giugliano (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #34) – 2:04.295 (5th)
“The last time I lapped in Sepang was in 2014, and the track has improved a lot since then in terms of overall smoothness of the surface, but the new asphalt still hasn’t that much rubber on and is difficult to gauge. Some areas also stay wet quite a while after rainfalls, and it’s not easy to see them because the new surface is dark, but we’re all on the same boat. I’m happy because we’ve been quite constant and managed to make steps forward each time we went out, but the tyres face a big drop after about 5 laps and we need to understand how to manage them over race distance. I feel in good shape and I think we got progressively closer to the front, now it will be crucial to fulfill our potential after a few difficult races.”
Chaz Davies (Aruba.it Racing – Ducati #7) – 2:04.478 (8th)
“Today the track conditions were difficult. The new surface represents a challenge for everyone. At first there was hardly any grip and it was not easy to spot the areas that stay wet, but we’re also still just finding our way. We simply need to work on the bike and improve the setting, especially to make it turn better. We have a couple of reasonably good ideas, which have worked in the past, so we’re going to make some changes and see how it plays out tomorrow. We’ve been quite consistent today, but tyre wear remains a crucial variable and we’ll need find the optimal compromise to make sure we are competitive from beginning to end.”
“We focused a lot more on durability and endurance today and I am very happy with our pace considering where we still need to improve. I think we have a good pace over distance. We sacrificed positions in qualifying to get that but it is not the end of the world. We just have to do three extra laps in Superpole tomorrow. I think we are prepared better for the race now after we made a small change, so it was better to understand that that than to put in a new tyre and go for a lap time. If we had done that we would probably have had two more question marks for tomorrow’s race. A 15-minute session on Saturday makes it very tricky to judge your race performance.”
“I am good in the first split time and not so good in the middle two. We focused on using the harder tyre because I think for everybody it is quite a gamble to use the softer tyre on this new tarmac. It seems all the times in front were set on the softer tyres. So we are not panicking and just working for the race. Everything feels fine. We learned quite a lot today because we worked with the bike quite a lot – electronically we changed some things. Our consistency seems quite good it is just that the surface here is bringing a good lap time with the softer tyres.”
Nicky Hayden – 2nd / 2’04.167
“We started off very well this morning, the bike felt great immediately and it was moving less off line in a lot of places. The team did a great job today, as every little tweak we made was in the right direction, even though the bike set-up didn’t really need any major change. It would have been nice to be the fastest, but at the end it’s only Friday. Regardless, we did some good laps and the long run we did in the second session went well. We’ll see how it goes tomorrow, because we have a relatively short morning practice and another short qualifying session tomorrow before race one.”
Michael van der Mark – 7th / 2’04.385
“This morning we went out on track not knowing what to expect, as the whole circuit has been recently resurfaced. We had to find out how it was and in some areas it was quite tricky, because water was seeping through the asphalt. I immediately got a good feeling with the bike and step by step we were able to get quicker. This afternoon we made some small changes, nothing major really, and I felt I could have been faster in my last outing before the chequered flag. Nevertheless, I’m happy with the bike and how it well it handles; the only thing we need to work on is our race pace, to make sure the tyre can last until the end.”
“It was a really positive day. Despite having to get used to the new surface, both riders were able to stay in the top 5 in the morning session and the settings chosen were clearly working very well. We went back to the kind of set-up we had used in Thailand and from there we started with some little adjustments. They went separate ways concerning the front tyre, the duration of which is going to be crucial for the races. In the afternoon, Nicky was again very fast and until the very end it looked like he could have stayed at the top, but nevertheless he showed great form and he is happy with his position. Michael got into a little bit of a battle with Jonathan (Rea) on his last flying lap and that didn’t allow him to improve his time and be further up the timesheets. He is just a couple of tenths away from his teammate and that’s not bad at all.”
WorldSBK – Sepang Day 1
Lorenzo Savadori IodaRacing 2:03.951
Nicky Hayden Honda World Superbike Team +0.216
Markus Reiterberger Althea BMW Racing Team +0.288
WorldSSP: Jacobsen Quickest on Day 1
Last time WorldSSP raced at Sepang International Circuit it was American PJ Jacobsen who took the victory, and the Honda rider took P1 once more in 2016, this time on Friday. After a dry first session and rain hitting in the afternoon, those fastest in the morning are the riders graduating straight to Tissot-Superpole 2 on Saturday.
FP2 began slightly later than scheduled after a thunderstorm only minutes before the session was set to begin. With a wet track and little chance of improving lap times from FP1, riders were slow to venture out once the pits were open and the rain less heavy, and it was Assen winner Kyle Smith who was fastest in the wet. Local hero Zulfahmi Khairuddin was also impressive in the rain in P5, just behind PJ Jacobsen, Gino Rea and Kenan Sofuoglu, but with dry FP1 times to decide entry to Tissot-Superpole 2 it is American Jacobsen who leads the grid into the qualifying session.
Joining the 2015 WorldSSP winner in the top ten after Day 1 were reigning Champion Kenan Sofuoglu, title contender Jules Cluzel, ahead of his MV Agusta Reparto Corse teammate Lorenzo Zanetti, and rookie WorldSSP rider Randy Krummenacher who locked out the top 5 in front of Spanish rider Nico Terol. Gino Rea was also fast in the dry conditions earlier in the day and will go through to Tissot-Superpole 2 ahead of Ondrej Jezek, Zulfahmi Khairuddin and Federico Caricasulo.
Local hero Khairuddin will be happy to go straight through to Superpole 2 in his home race despite the weather conditions, and the home rider should be buoyed by good pace in both the wet and dry, ready to put on a show for the crowd come rain or shine for Sunday’s WorldSSP race.
PJ Jacobsen – P1 – Honda World Supersport Team
“It’s going really well. This morning was a bit different just with the new track surface but we soon got used to it. It seemed like WorldSBK riders got a lot faster in their first session and so did we towards the end as the grip started coming in. The second session was wet, but the grip was actually amazing in the wet. We had a really good day and were P1 in the dry and P2 in the wet. It’s been a hard start to the season, and we’re back on our feet now.”
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