Round 18 – Sepang – Day One
Breaking the lap record seems a good way to start your team’s home Grand Prix, so doing it once in FP1 and again in FP2 makes it an even better Friday for Petronas Yamaha SRT’s Fabio Quartararo at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix.
The Frenchman was over half-a-second clear, but it was team-mate Franco Morbidelli who was closest to him by the end of play, making it double delight for the team. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) rounded out the top three.
Day 1 was dry but it’s a mix of FP1 and FP2 times at the top, although Quartararo’s best lap in FP1 would still have been enough to take to the top. In the afternoon he unleashed even more pace to stretch his advantage and set the second fastest lap ever recorded by a motorcycle at Sepang. The fastest outright lap ever was set during pre-season testing early this year when Danilo Petrucci produced a stunning 1m58.239s. Quartararo’s time today was 1m58.576s.
Fabio Quartararo – P1
“The lap was really incredible – and my second time attack would have even better but I caught some traffic. The most important thing is that we’re really safe in progressing directly to Q2 for tomorrow. That means that in the morning we can concentrate on working on which tyres to choose for the race, although already our pace and our rhythm are strong. My ankle has been quite painful after the crash last weekend in Australia, but when you’re P1 and you’ve got good pace on the bike you’re able to forget about it a little bit! The news that I’ll have a 2020 A-spec bike next year is a big surprise and I need to say thanks to Yamaha, Petronas and the team for making it happen – but we still need to focus on the last two races of 2019 for now.”
Morbidelli was nevertheless impressive in second, his lap from FP1, and all Yamahas were at the front as Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) and Valentino Rossi locked out the top five – the former from a lap in the morning and the latter, afternoon.
Franco Morbidelli – P2
“It’s a perfect way for our team to start the weekend finishing one-two today. This morning was excellent, and this afternoon we were able to try some things on the bike to improve our settings. It didn’t go the way we wanted it to, but it has helped us to understand some things, and the important thing is that I’m much faster than I was in Australia. We need to find something here and there on the bike, but if we keep on going the way we’re working then there’s a good chance of a double front row start for Sunday.”
Maverick Vinales – P4
“I’m really happy, because I felt pretty good with the bike straight away. We found a really good rhythm. Especially in FP2 I tried to understand what’s what for the race: what the race situation would be like, the track, slippery conditions. I felt good, that’s the most important, and tomorrow we have a good chance to meet our objective of being on the first row, that’s our target. I feel very strong, we can do a good job. We’re going to keep it like that. I’m going to try to better myself through the track, where I think I can still improve, and we will see where we are. But I think we have a good opportunity on Sunday.”
Valentino Rossi – P5
“The first day wasn’t so bad, because in FP2 I had a good pace with the race tyres. Also at the end I was able to do a good lap with the softs and I’m in the top 5. I’m quite consistent, but we’re worried about the rear tyre, because the race is very long, it’s 20 laps. Anyway, today we had two good practices and I was quite competitive.”
That makes Dovizioso the only non-Yamaha in the mix after the opening day’s action, with reigning Champion Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) the next closest but a couple of tenths off Rossi.
Andrea Dovizioso – P3
“Sepang is a fascinating circuit, but it’s also complicated because of the heat and the tyre drop that you always get on this track. In the afternoon we tried a different set-up that gave interesting results: it’s not easy to manage but it allowed me to be more consistent and quicker so I’m happy with today’s improvements. It’s still not enough to think about fighting for the win on Sunday, because there are some riders who are better placed than us, but I’m pleased with the work we did today and my feeling.”
Marquez was sixth on Friday, his FP1 time his best, and began that very session with a trademark save on the edge. There was also an interesting extra spotted on his machine: a second lever on the left handlebar. What was it? A rear brake lever, although the number 93 says it’ll go back in the box for now as it isn’t ready to race. Marquez did not seem to put a soft tyre in for a one-lap attack in FP2 thus his time and ranking perhaps not true of his real potential pace..
Marc Marquez – P6
“Today was a busy day, just in the first or second lap of the day I had a very big save. It was probably one of the best of the season, but we also had a warning from the bike’s dashboard later. I decided it was better to be safe and switch off the bike and come back to the box. The team resolved it and, in the end, it wasn’t a big issue and afterwards we were able to work normally. This afternoon we worked on our race pace and it wasn’t too bad. I think we’re second or third right now in terms of pace. The team is focused on the end of the season, but we also have an eye on 2020 and tried some ideas today.”
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) put Suzuki in seventh, his laptime from FP1, ahead of Quartararo’s closest rival for the title of top Independent Team rider in 2019: Jack Miller (Pramac Racing).
Alex Rins – P7
“Today was quite good, I was able to put in some strong lap times and demonstrate good race pace. I tried the medium and the soft tyres and I feel quite comfortable. The aerodynamic package we have is helping compared with last year, especially on the straights. I really hope to be on the front row tomorrow, but if not then I need to be on the 2nd row. I’m looking forward to the race already.”
Jack Miller – P8
“I’m satisfied with the way things have turned out today. The bike is very different from the one we used in the winter tests but the feeling has been positive since the morning. I would like to thank the team for doing a good job. Let’s see how the weather will be tomorrow but we have great confidence.”
An impressive showing from Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) put the Noale factory in ninth, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) rounding out what could prove a pivotal top ten.
Aleix Espargaro – P9
“Overall, I am satisfied with the first day. I feel good on this track. In recent races we have been consistently competitive. The RS-GP is performing well from every point of view. There are a few riders with a vastly better pace than everyone else, but the rest of the rankings are close. We can improve our fast lap. Today I did it with the medium rear and I think I was the only one. It’s a good sign for qualifying and for the race.”
Cal Crutchlow – P10
“I don’t feel as good as I did during the test here. I’m not really sure why, I just don’t have a good feeling with the bike and the problem is that the turning of the bike here is not great. The track condition is also worse than in the test, so that also masked some of the problems at the test. We need to improve, I was consistent, but I was consistently not fast enough, but I hope we can make a step tomorrow and make some inroads on the guys at the front.”
Number 63 Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) just missed the cut by a seemingly grudge-bearing margin of just 0.063 as he was 11th, just ahead of fellow rookie Joan Mir (Team Suzuki Ecstar).
Pecco Bagnaia – P11
“It’s a positive result even though I couldn’t get into the Top 10 for a few thousandths of a second. I hope that tomorrow morning the weather is good to try to qualify directly to Q2. We still have a few problems to solve with the rear grip but the feeling is positive.”
Joan Mir – P12
“Well, I didn’t improve much between the used tyre and the new one, where the other riders improved a lot. I know I need to make a step tomorrow to ensure that I can have a good qualifying, I want to be on the front couple of rows. The conditions are hard, I feel so hot on the bike, it takes some getting used to. But overall I feel good, and ready for tomorrow.”
Danilo Petrucci (Ducati Team) had a tougher day in P13, with Johann Zarco (LCR Honda Idemitsu) and Karel Abraham (Reale Avintia Racing) rounding out the fastest fifteen on Friday.
Danilo Petrucci – P13
“Physically I’m still not 100% fit after the crash at Phillip Island, and in addition I wasn’t able to get the best out of the new tyres. Both this morning and this afternoon I struggled a lot and even though my pace is not bad, I still don’t feel quite right. Now we have to try and understand what didn’t work this afternoon to resolve my problems and get back to the front tomorrow.”
Johann Zarco – P14
“It was a good first day. I wanted to begin the Friday with better pace than I did in Australia. I was sure that I could do it – and I did it, it was better. In the morning we kept the used tyre so the work was interesting and then I could feel the work we did immediately in the afternoon. I was going quite fast in the afternoon, I was with the good guys. But in the end, when I put on a soft tyre to get the lap time, my first lap was a little bit better and I expected to go faster on my final lap, but I had a little crash in turn one as I went too wide and closed the front. It was a normal crash, no pain anywhere. So I will just focus on improving tomorrow and I know I can be in the 59s.”
Jorge Lorenzo ended the day in 17th overall after improving his lap time by eight-tenths in the afternoon. Lorenzo one of several riders to improve in FP2 despite the oppressively hot track in the afternoon.
Jorge Lorenzo – P17
“From Phillip Island to here, it’s a big change – they’re almost the opposite. Here, there is a lot of grip and it’s quite flat with good weather, all of this has given me a better feeling. In terms of our pace we were 1.1 to 1.5 seconds behind. We tried something different with the setting to improve our rear grip, but we weren’t able to take full profit of it when pushing for a single fast lap so I think I could have done a 2’00.3 or a 2’00.2 and been closer to the front. For tomorrow the objective is to keep improving and do a 1’59.”
MotoGP Combined Practice Times
Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Jorge Martin continued his fine form on Day 1 at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, ending the opening day of Moto2 action fastest for the second time in a row and that following two podiums in a row. The 2018 Moto3 World Champion was two tenths clear of FP1’s fastest man Tetsuta Nagashima (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team), with World Championship leader Alex Marquez (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) in third and the quickest of the four remaining contenders.
The day was a dry one for Moto2 and Martin was the only man to get into the 2:06s, which he did in the afternoon – with FP1 pacesetter Nagashima showing top pace in both sessions and second fastest in FP2. Marquez also improved in the afternoon despite a couple of wobbles, putting himself nearly a tenth clear of Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Ajo) to lead a gaggle of contenders all stacked up in the top six.
Binder didn’t improve in the afternoon but the South African was only hundredths off doing so, with his quickest effort from FP2 still fast enough to have headed off the charge of Jorge Navarro (Beta Tools Speed Up) if needed. Navarro completed the top five overall and was just 0.051 ahead of fellow contender Tom Lüthi (Dynavolt Intact GP); the Swiss rider the last in the queue of contenders on Friday by a tiny margin as everything tightened up in mid-top ten.
Fabio Di Giannantonio (Beta Tools Speed Up) was the fastest rookie in P7 and back nearer the front afetr a tougher Phillip Island, that making for a good springboard as he aims to wrap up the title of Rookie of the Year this season. Xavi Vierge (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was eighth quickest, ahead of Mattia Pasini (Tasca Racing Scuderia Moto2) and Augusto Fernandez (Flexbox HP 40).
Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) beat Marcel Schrötter (Dynavolt Intact GP) to 11th by a single thousandth, with Remy Gardner (ONEXOX TKKR SAG Team) in P13 on Friday.
Last year’s winner Luca Marini (Sky Racing Team VR46), meanwhile, was down in 14th and the last of the provisional entrants to Q1, the Italian crashing on Day 1 – rider ok.
Moto2 Combined Practice Times
|7||F.Di Giannanto||SPEED UP||+0.613|
Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) went fastest on Friday at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, with a final dash in FP2 deciding the timesheets and the Japanese rider getting the better of compatriot Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse). CIP – Green Power’s Darryn Binder rounded out a top three split by 0.258 seconds.
After overnight rain, FP1 began on wets for everyone and that’s the way it stayed until later in the session, with the fastest man, Andrea Migno (Mugen Race), one of only a few to make a late switch to slicks and the top 14 split by an uncharacteristic 7.365 seconds. The afternoon would allow improvements, however, with Ayumu Sasaki putting Petronas Sprinta Racing into P1 for a good while as the Japanese rider bounced back from a big crash in FP1…but a last dash for glory was just around the corner.
By the end of the shuffle, Toba was on top with a couple of tenths in hand over Suzuki, as Binder shot up into third. Sasaki got himself back up at the sharp end to take fourth overall on Friday, with Migno putting in another solid showing in the afternoon to complete the top five. Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) was P6, just 0.008 off Migno as the gaps dwindled.
Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) were even more closely matched in seventh and eighth respectively, registering the exact same fastest lap. Rookie Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was P9 in a solid first day at Sepang, with Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) completing the top ten ahead of Jaume Masia (Mugen Race), who got the better of Filip Salač (Redox PrüstelGP) by just 0.001 to take P11.
So where’s the brand new World Champion? Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) was 13th quickest on Friday, a couple of tenths adrift of the man ahead of him. That’s enough, however, to see him move straight through to Q2 on Saturday should the rain come down in FP3 – where he’d also be joined by rookie Raul Fernandez (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team).
A couple of surprises missing from provisional Q2 were Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) down in P16, ahead of Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Albert Arenas (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team). Rodrigo crashed, as did John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), who ended the day in P24 and will be hoping for a dry FP3.
Moto3 Combined Practice Times
|13||L.Dalla Porta Ita||HONDA||+0.803|