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.
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.”