Tito Rabat was comfortably quickest as Moto2™ practice began on Friday ahead of the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The Tuenti HP 40 rider led Interwetten Paddock Moto2 Racing’s Tom Luthi, as Scott Redding moved ahead of championship rival Pol Espargaro after beginning the day in 12th place.
Already quickest in the morning when rain had affected the opening session, Rabat proceeded to register a 2’07.321 lap time during the dry afternoon. There was a significant gap of seven tenths of a second back to Luthi, as Marc VDS Racing Team’s Redding made huge strides to crack the top three. This left the Englishman almost two tenths up on Rabat’s teammate and closest title rival Espargaro, as Italtrans Racing Team’s Takaaki Nakagami finished fifth despite a crash.
Numerous riders were caught out by a lack of grip, particularly off the racing line following the rain of earlier in the day. As well as Nakagami, there were slip-ups for Azlan Shah (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), wildcard Decha Kraisart (Singha Eneos Yamaha Tech3) and Thitipong Warokorn (Thai Honda PTT Gresini Moto2). These in-turn followed incidents in the morning for Johann Zarco of Came IodaRacing Project and Rafid Topan Sucipto, whose QMMF Racing Team outfit suffered a garage fire during the afternoon which caused damage to bikes and equipment.
Alex de Angelis was sixth for NGM Mobile Forward Racing, ahead of Technomag carXpert’s Dominique Aegerter, Aspar Team Moto2’s Nico Terol, who won last time out in Aragón, Redding’s teammate Mika Kallio and the aforementioned Zarco.
Conditions were very much mixed across the second Moto3™ practice session at Sepang on Friday for the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix, with Jack Miler eventually going fastest for Caretta Technology – RTG. The Australian completed a reshuffled top three from Mahindra Racing’s Efren Vazquez and Ongetta-Rivacold’s Alexis Masbou, but it was Team Calvo’s Maverick Viñales whose morning time was quickest of the day.
After title contender Viñales posted a best effort of 2’14.961 in the morning, rain before the second session left riders with no option but to fit wet weather tyres. As the circuit eventually dried and slicks were used towards the end of the afternoon period, there were changes aplenty atop the leader board, but it was Miller’s FTR Honda going top with a leading afternoon lap time of 2’15.598. On the overall timesheets for the day, he would finish third behind the aforementioned Viñales and Masbou.
Alex Rins (Estrella Galicia 0,0 and also a championship contender) was fourth overall from Mahindra Racing’s Efren Vazquez and championship leader Luis Salom (Red Bull KTM Ajo), while Ongetta-Centro Seta’s Isaac Viñales was seventh, but led the way in the closing stages of the afternoon. The overall top ten was completed by Ambrogio Racing’s Brad Binder (continuing to adapt to the Mahindra machine) Miguel Oliveira on a factory Mahindra and Tec Interwetten Moto3 Racing’s Philipp Oettl, fresh from his career-best result of sixth in the Aragón Grand Prix.
With damp patches around the track, Eric Granado found himself caught out when entering Turn 7. The Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3 rider, who ended proceedings 19th from Malaysia’s Zulfahmi Khairuddin (Red Bull KTM Ajo), suffered a fall but no injuries.
— Yamaha Report
The first of the three overseas triple-header weekend’s kicked off today in Sepang with the first two free practice sessions for the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Nine-time world champion Valentino Rossi made solid improvements over the two practice sessions to wrap up the day in fourth in the combined times. The Italian made a 0.5 second improvement over the two sessions and finished 0.115 seconds behind Cal Crutchlow in third.
Defending world champion Jorge Lorenzo had a tougher first day in Sepang. The Mallorcan struggled to find an optimum set up for the Malaysian circuit with mid-corner grip issues affecting his final times. He completed the first day in fifth overall, 0.085 seconds behind his teammate Rossi.
Valentino Rossi -4th / 2’01.538 / 18 laps
“For me personally, especially this afternoon, it was a good practice because we improved the setting of the bike a lot. We improved with the new tyre and with the old tyre I can stay with a good pace so I feel better on the bike. For sure we have to improve, but this afternoon I feel good. It seems our competitors are a little faster than us but I will try 100% because in the last races Jorge is always there fighting at the front. It will be hard but we have to concentrate on the bike. We are not very far but we have a small gap to recover.”
Jorge Lorenzo – 5th / 2’01.623 / 14 laps
“We are investigating what happened today because I didn’t have confidence in the middle of the corners and also with acceleration. I had a lot of spinning and the bike is very aggressive so we have to see what we can change for tomorrow to try to get back a good feeling with the bike again.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“A difficult first practice for us here in Sepang, we struggled a bit to find grip. We need to find out what is going on through the data; we don’t have an answer yet. We need to try to get it on the table before tomorrow morning so we can make the next step in the third practice.”
Massimo Meregalli – Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“Today didn’t go as we wanted and as we expected. Anyway, we got a lot of data that we can study and for sure we will use it to improve a set up that is now not perfect. We are pretty confident that with the data and the rider comments we can analyse the issues and put together a different set up that will enable Jorge and Vale to get a better consistent pace and speed.”
Crutchlow makes flying start to flyaway triple-header in Sepang
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Cal Crutchlow made a fantastic start to the Malaysian MotoGP weekend today, the British rider setting the third fastest time on the opening day of practice at the physically demanding Sepang International Circuit.
Sixth fastest in typically hot and humid conditions in this morning’s opening 45-minute session, Crutchlow was almost a second faster in FP2 to surge up the rankings into the top three behind Spanish duo Dani Pedrosa and World Championship leader Marc Marquez. Crutchlow had struggled this morning with pain in the swollen right arm he first damaged at Silverstone recently, but happily he was able to ride in much less discomfort in FP2 and the improvement in his physical condition was reflected in his pace. The 27-year-old posted a personal best time of 2.01.423 that secured him a top three slot by 0.115s ahead of factory Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi on a track offering excellent grip levels, despite heavy rain falling in between sessions.
Teammate Bradley Smith was also able to enjoy a positive start to arguably the toughest spell of the World Championship campaign, with this weekend’s Sepang race closely followed by back-to-back trips to Australia and Japan.
The rookie finished inside the top 10 in both 45-minute practice sessions and a best lap of 2.02.551 placed him 10th on the combined timesheets. Smith dedicated much of his time on track today to further adapting to a new smoother braking technique he first began experimenting with at the previous round at the Motorland Aragon track in Spain. He also concentrated on his consistency on worn tyres and was satisfied with progress made ahead of planned significant set-up tweaks to evaluate tomorrow in advance of Sunday’s 20-lap race.
Cal Crutchlow 2.01.423 – 35 laps: “It was very difficult this morning to ride at my maximum level because I had some problems with the right arm I first injured during the recent British Grand Prix. I already know I need surgery at the end of the season but until now the big impact my arm took at Silverstone has only given me bad swelling but no pain. This morning instead it hurt me a lot and couldn’t use the arm that well. Fortunately the afternoon session was much better and on my final run of the day we made a positive step and I am pleased to finish inside the top three. I was immediately faster the first time I put in a new tyre because for most of FP2 we worked on the set-up of the bike with worn tyres I’d also used this morning.”
Bradley Smith 10th 2.02.551 – 36 laps: “After testing twice at Sepang in the winter I was looking forward to coming back here to understand how much progress I have made in my rookie season. It is nice to be riding on a track where I’ve got previous experience of riding the YZR-M1 and although I wasn’t able to lap as fast as I did in February, my consistency has improved a lot and that is a positive point. I did a lot of 2.02 laps and I am happy with my pace, but we will look at making some more drastic changes tomorrow to take another step into the 2.01s. I did some good times on old tyres and that gives me confidence that I will be strong in the race on Sunday.”
— Repsol HRC Report
The Malaysian Grand Prix got underway in mixed conditions today, as Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa laid down the marker with a blisteringly fast time in this afternoon’s FP2 session. Teammate, and Championship leader, Marc Marquez finished the day in second place.
2012 race winner Dani was already fastest in the morning, but in the afternoon he improved his time by 0.675s with a lap time of 2’00.554 (just 0.22 off Lorenzo’s record pole time in 2012) on lap 12 of 17. This was all the more impressive considering there was a torrential downpour in-between the sessions, washing away the rubber from the track. Teammate Marc, also second in FP1 this morning, shaved half a second off his morning lap time with 2.01.087 on lap 8 of 17.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Marco Simoncelli this weekend, as it marks the second anniversary of the HRC rider’s premature passing during the Malaysian Grand Prix in 2011, he will be forever missed.
Dani Pedrosa 1st 2’00.554
“Today went well; we had two good practice sessions and were able to ride in dry conditions in both the morning and afternoon. In the second session it looked like the track was going to be wet after a brief rain shower in-between FP1 and FP2, but it dried out quickly and we were able to continue working on our setups. When sitting on the bike I have quite a lot of pain, as the seat is very hard, so we shall see if a few more anti-inflammatories can help to alleviate the issue. We might also add a small cushion underneath my leathers, in order to absorb the bumps that we get when riding”
Marc Marquez 2nd 2’01.087
“We came here before in pre-season, when I had barely ridden a MotoGP bike so it was interesting to compare things again so many laps and miles later! I felt comfortable and this is important when trying to be more consistent every lap. On the single lap we are half a second off Dani who was very fast, as he always is at Sepang, but our pace in general isn’t too far off. We have to push hard because if he can do it, that means that the Honda is capable of those times. I was hoping to be more consistent but I had some problems with braking, which we were able to solve in the opening practice session. We still need to improve a few things, but I have realised that we are already fast, straight out of the box.”
— Ducati Report
As expected, the first day of the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Sepang International Circuit was marked by unpredictable weather, but the first two free-practice sessions saw the MotoGP riders lapping in dry conditions.
Nicky Hayden and Andrea Dovizioso were both pleased to finish the day in the top ten in the combined times, as they know that should rain strike tomorrow morning’s session, today’s times could well determine who transfers directly into Q2. Nonetheless, both Ducati Team riders hope to reduce their gaps to the leaders.
Nicky Hayden – Ducati Team, 8th (2:02.373)
“Things went pretty well this morning, but we fell further behind as the day went on. The biggest problem is that I have a lot of chatter, especially from the front and in the fast corners, which makes it very difficult to carry corner speed. That’s a normal problem we had here during testing, so it’s not something we didn’t expect, but we need to try to do something to improve it.”
Andrea Dovizioso – Ducati Team, 9th (2:02.487)
“It was important to make it into the top ten, and it’s good that I managed it while doing an entire session with one tyre, unlike most of the others. The gap to the front is bigger, but that’s normal; there isn’t much grip here and the tyre wears a lot, which hurts us a bit more. The Sepang track is very particular. When it dries, even if there are some wet patches, you can set good times, like Pedrosa did. Sure, the tyres don’t work so well and they wear a bit more, but you can still go fast.”
— Bridgestone Report
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium & Hard. Rear: Soft, Medium (Symmetric) & Hard (Asymmetric)
Bridgestone wet tyre compounds available: Hard (Main) & Soft (Alternative)
Weather: FP1 – Dry. Ambient 29-30°C; Track 37-41°C (Bridgestone measurement)
FP2 – Dry. Ambient 30-30°C; Track 41-44°C (Bridgestone measurement)
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa set a sizzling time of 2’00.554 in this afternoon’s Free Practice 2 session to finish half a second clear of his closest rival in the first day of practice at the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang.
Pedrosa’s time was just two-tenths of a second off the qualifying lap record, the Spaniard topping the opening day ahead of teammate Marc Marquez who was second quickest with a personal best time of 2’01.087. Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Cal Crutchlow was the closest rider to the Honda duo, his lap time of 2’01.423 slotting him in at third in the overall classification. Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaro was the quickest of the CRT today, setting a time 2.056 seconds off Pedrosa’s benchmark to finish eleventh on the timesheets.
Dry track conditions greeted riders in both sessions today despite a heavy downpour around midday, with a peak track temperature of 44°C recorded during FP2. At the start of Free Practice One all riders headed out on soft slick options front and rear to gauge the track condition, with two riders assessing the hard compound front slick later on in the morning session. In the second session of the day tyre choice was more varied, with five riders trying the harder rear slick options, while both the soft and hard front slicks were also used. The softer front and rear slick options were preferred by riders today, with almost every rider setting their quickest time on this tyre combination.
Similar weather conditions to today with the chance of rain are forecast for tomorrow. The final ranked practice session, FP3, starts at 0955 local time (GMT +8) before qualifying gets underway from 1410.
Masao Azuma – Chief Engineer, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development Department
“Today was a good start to the race weekend and thankfully the heavy rain earlier didn’t disrupt the afternoon session. Softer slick options were preferred by the riders today, though the reasons for this preference were different for the front and rear tyres. The moderate track temperatures meant few riders felt the need to evaluate the harder rear slick options, while for the front, most riders felt that the softer front slick offered better bump absorption in the braking zones, which at this circuit feature quite heavy undulations. Considering we are already near record qualifying pace on the opening day here at Sepang, I expect we will see some more lap records set over the weekend.”