Solid start at rain soaked Sepang for Yamaha
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi got their first laps in around the Sepang International Circuit under very mixed conditions today as they prepare for this weekend’s Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Lorenzo successfully kicked off the third and last overseas Grand Prix weekend during the sunny morning session. The Majorcan rider spent his first stint finding a good dry set up before posting a best lap of 2’01.416 in his second stint, just 0.037 seconds off the fastest pace.
Teammate Rossi also was quick to find a solid pace around the Malaysian track over the first practice session. The nine-time World Champion made the most of the dry 45 minutes session and put in a total of 18 laps to find the perfect race set-up. The Italian rode a best lap of 2’01.842, just 0.463 seconds off the front.
The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammates had to be patient for the second practice session to get underway as it was red flagged due to a sudden monsoon. Standing water created concerns about the track’s conditions. When the track started to dry out the afternoon free practice session was restarted at 14:30 local time.
Lorenzo and Rossi used the session with caution as they got to know the wet weather tires and tried to find a matching set-up. Lorenzo led most of the session and found a good wet set up whilst Rossi struggled with a lack of grip on his YZR-M1. The slower wet times meant both riders were unable to improve on their morning time, causing Lorenzo to complete the first day third in combined sessions times and Rossi in sixth.
3rd / 2'01.416 / 14 laps
“The race will be held at 4 o’clock this weekend but it would be better if the race was at 2 o’clock because at 4 o’clock it usually starts to rain here. We hope to either have a completely wet race or a completely dry race, but not something in between because that would be difficult for everyone. In the wet I was really satisfied and happy. Midway through the practice I was pushing really hard and was feeling very good. My lap time was two seconds quicker than anyone else! Finally Marc and Dani improved at the end of the practice, but at that moment I was really fast. Valentino was having some problems, so this means our setting was working very well and I was feeling great on the bike. On the dry in the morning I also felt good from the beginning. I finished in third, which is like a second place because Aleix put on the extra soft tire. Dani seems to be strong here on the dry, like always, but I think we can fight for the win.”
6th / 2'01.842 / 12 laps
“I’m not very happy. This morning, with the dry conditions, it went not so bad. My rhythm was already quite good, but it wasn’t enough. I was not fast enough or strong enough to stay at the front, also because I wasn’t able to ride the bike in a good way, so we need to work. Especially, because in the wet this afternoon the situation was a lot worse. It was a very difficult practice and I wasn’t able to make the right speed to ride the bike in a good way, so the target is work, work, work. For Sunday we have to be ready for both conditions, because the weather here is very unstable and it could be either dry or wet. My bike had some chatter and we had to save the tire, but I wasn’t able to get enough corner speed. I need more balance going through the corners to go faster.”
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“This morning was ok for us, in the dry conditions both Vale and Jorge were pretty fast and had no big complaints. In the afternoon Jorge continued to have a good pace and speed so he has a good set up in both conditions, wet and dry. Vale was struggling in wet so we need to work to find solutions for his wet setting. It’s very important because the weather forecast for the weekend is dry in the mornings and storms in the afternoons so we have to be ready for all conditions. We can see what the problem is in the data so we are confident we can find solutions overnight for tomorrow’s sessions.”
Espargaro and Smith battle through mixed conditions on opening day at Sepang
Monster Yamaha Tech3 team rider Pol Espargaro undertook a confident start to the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle GP by finishing in tenth position in the combined standings, despite opposing weather conditions in both sessions. Espargaro began the day by ending up in tenth with a time of 2’02.248 which was just half a second from fifth position as he battled the humid and searing heat of the Malaysian track. The reigning Moto2 World Champion had hoped to continue his progress in the afternoon, yet a sudden and torrential downpour at the Sepang circuit caused FP2 to be red flagged and delayed. Once the practice eventually began, the track was in full damp conditions thus preventing any improvement in time, yet giving the riders the opportunity to establish a wet setup which could prove integral for Sunday's race due to the unpredictability of the weather. Espargaro bravely completed the difficult practice as he avoided pushing to the limit in order to lower the risk of crashing, as well as continuing to become more familiar and confident with riding a MotoGP bike in the wet. However, the Spaniard remains optimistic and hopeful for a dry session in tomorrow’s qualifying.
On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team garage, Bradley Smith finished the opening day at Sepang in 12th position after having started to meticulously establish his race setup for Sunday. The young British rider who comes from a debut podium in the premier class at the previous round in Australia, completed the morning session with a best time of 2’02.627 which was his fastest lap of the day. This time saw him in 12th place in the combined standings as well at the end of the day, as the conditions were far from perfect in the afternoon. Nevertheless, Smith audaciously battled the lack of traction as he gathered valuable information for a potentially vital wet setup at Sepang, instead of posting fast times in the damp session. The 23 year old rider now looks towards tomorrow’s qualifying at the 5543 metre circuit where he will aim for a place within the top six for Sunday’s 20 lap sprint.
10th / 2'02.248 / 14 laps
“It goes without saying that a tenth position at the end of the opening day is nothing to be too happy about, yet I think we did a good job in preparation for Sunday's race. This morning I felt comfortable straight away on the bike and it is a good feeling to come to a race track where I already have some experience with my Yamaha. However, I still think there is a lot of improvement that we need to make as I struggled a bit when stopping the bike, as well as having to deal with a bit of chatter in some corners around the track. So hopefully tomorrow's sessions will be dry to give us an opportunity to adjust these details in order to be more competitive on Sunday. In the afternoon, the conditions changed completely and I tried to familiarise myself with the wet surface, which I still do not have a lot of experience with. Now we will work hard to fix these small issues so that we can be prepared and then show a strong qualifying performance tomorrow.”
12th / 2'02.627 / 15 laps
“Overall, it was not a bad opening to the weekend despite the difficulties with the rain. We had a good start in the morning even though I wasn’t able to achieve a fast time straight away with the fresh tires, but I managed to run really consistent 2’02 times which is considerably more important for the race. In addition, we completed some positive work with the electronics as well as examining the rear tire in order to have a constant pace on Sunday, especially at the end of the race, as this is one of the key factors here. In the afternoon, we struggled due to the rain which is a difficult area for us as we found it tough in Assen and also Aragon. Yet we spent the session finding a solid direction to work in which we managed to narrow down. If there are wet conditions tomorrow, I am optimistic of what we can do and for sure we will be more competitive. Furthermore, I adapted my riding style from Phillip Island to this track, so there are many positives to be taken on the first day and I feel confident for the rest of the weekend here in Malaysia.”
Espargaro, fast at Sepang from the first practices
Action resumed today at the Sepang International Circuit for the first day of practices of the Malaysian Grand Prix, last round of the overseas tripleheader.
It was a good start for the NGM Forward Racing Team with Aleix Espargaro and Alex De Angelis finishing respectively in second and nineteenth place of the combined classification.
Similar to during the winter test, Espargaro was able to ride fast from the start of FP1, setting a superb 2.01.393, just 14 thousands from the provisional pole man and he finished the first day of free practices with the second best lap time behind Dani Pedrosa.
In the afternoon, with the rain started to fall a few minutes before the start of the FP2, Aleix couldn’t improve his lap time. The Spaniard showed to be competitive also on the wet, setting the fifth best time of the FP2.
His teammate Alex De Angelis focused on the set up of the bike as he hadn’t tested the Forward Yamaha on this track during the winter test. He set a lap time of 2.04.454, finishing in 19th position of the combined classification.
2nd / 2'01.393 / 11 laps
“Already in February during the pre-season test I was competitive here so today we started from that point and I could confirm the positive feelings. I was fast on the dry this morning, but also on the wet in the FP2 the feeling was quiet good. I’m confident for the qualifying of tomorrow as I have a good pace.”
Alex De Angelis
19th / 2'04.454 / 13 laps
“Considering that I didn’t test here in the winter I knew that I couldn’t ride fast as the other ones in the first practices. In the morning the feeling was positive and I could ride with a good pace. The target was to improve in the afternoon but just a few minutes before the start of the FP2 it started to rain so I couldn’t continue working on the set up in the afternoon. All in all it was a positive day.”