Valentino Rossi, had a challenging qualifying session and will start tomorrow’s Malaysian Motorcycle GP from sixth position.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo continued his competitive form of yesterday this afternoon at the hot Sepang International Circuit by taking third on the grid. His teammate, Valentino Rossi, had a challenging qualifying session and will start tomorrow’s Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix from sixth position.
Despite the fact that the lengthy track allows little time for multiple hot laps, Lorenzo made sure to leave pitlane last for the 15 minute qualifying heat to be ensured of some clear space. When on his way the Majorcan was fast straight out of the box and posted a 2’00.469 lap to take provisional third. He was unable to improve on his time on his second try and came into the pits for a fresh set of tyres with six minutes left on the clock.
It’s now four o’clock and it’s around 38 degrees, but it depends on the rain.
Less than three minutes later Lorenzo was back out on the track for one last shot at claiming pole position and immediately posted a 2’00.203 lap, which saw him hold second place briefly, until a late effort by rival Dani Pedrosa relegated him to third.
Teammate Rossi had an eventful day at the Malaysian circuit. During the fourth Free Practice session the Doctor was one of several riders to fall victim to a small crashe at the treacherous circuit. Luckily Rossi was uninjured and was back in the pit garage in plenty of time for the second Qualifying session.
Similar to his teammate, the nine-time World Champion bided his time at the start of the qualifying session. His first flying lap of 2’01.218 put him in fifth position before being pushed back to sixth by Andrea Dovizioso.
After a quick stop at the box, Rossi was back on his way with more than four minutes remaining, allowing the Italian to put in two more laps. He put his head down once more and clocked a 2’00.740 which briefly earned him fifth place before a last minute flurry of activity saw him end the session in sixth.
Jorge Lorenzo (3rd / 2'00.203 / 6 laps): “I am very happy with third place on the grid, because I knew that apart from the factory team some of the other Honda riders like Bradl or Bautista were going to be fast too. In the end I managed to claim the front row.
I tried to get the pole position, but compared to Honda we needed just a little more acceleration when exiting the corners. I think we are getting closer in terms of race pace.
This is probably one of the worst tracks for Yamaha, but I am very satisfied with the work we’re doing. The bike is very good in all sectors; under braking, corners and acceleration. Tomorrow it will be impossible to ride similar lap times, especially when the tyres start to drop. If you’re able to ride 2’01 laps it will be very good effort for trying to win the race. I would prefer the race to be dry, but if it rains I think we’re ready too.”
Valentino Rossi (6th / 2'00.740 / 7 laps): “We had to try the hard front tyre and it was not so bad, but unfortunately I had some chatter and I crashed. We have to make a decision for tomorrow, because with the medium front tyre we are closer to the limit and we have to ride smoother.
Starting from the second row is not so bad considering that we struggled with the setting of the bike yesterday and today. We improved more today compared to yesterday, but we have to take another step for tomorrow.
The two Honda’s are very strong and Jorge is also a bit faster than me. If I want to stay with them, I have to improve my setting and my pace. The weather here is impossible to understand. It’s not like Phillip Island where the temperature goes down in the afternoon. It’s now four o’clock and it’s around 38 degrees, but it depends on the rain. We hope it will be a dry race and a little bit cooler than today and we will try.”
Massimo Meregalli - Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director: “Today it was extremely hot, which makes it a real challenge for the riders. Jorge did good job to secure a front row start for tomorrow, he has a very good pace and speed and is in a good position for the race. Vale has a good pace but was unable to find the perfect set up for qualifying and crashed with his preferred bike, that made it hard to find a good rhythm.
Despite this he was able to secure a second row start, which is important here for the first corners. As there is a real possibility of rain tomorrow we would have liked at least one wet practice today to work further on our wet set up. We’ll continue to work tonight to try a couple more things for warm up tomorrow morning and then we are ready as we can be for race."
Smith battles Sepang heat to qualify on third row
Monster Yamaha Tech3 team rider Bradley Smith will launch from the rear of the third row on the grid for the 20 lap challenge at the Sepang International Circuit tomorrow. The British rider began the day by undertaking 19 laps in this morning's free practice 3 session as he relentlessly continued his work with the Monster Yamaha Tech3 team in order to confidently set himself up for the all-important qualifying practice 2. He concluded the session in eighth with a time of 2’01.426, which was only half a second from his target of fifth position.
When the 15 minute QP2 dash began, the British rider lunged immediately in the tropical heat in Malaysia and ran at full pace before concluding the session with a top lap of 2’01.263. His performance today will see him rocket from ninth position on the grid as he fully intends to follow up his debut podium from the previous round in Australia, with another top result at the 5543 metre circuit in Malaysia to strengthen his aim of clinching sixth in the championship standings.
Meanwhile, Pol Espargaro suffered a heavy fall in the closing minutes of the morning practice which resulted in him fracturing the head of the second metatarsal in his left foot. Therefore, the young Spanish rider decided to sit out today's free practice 4 as well as the qualifying 2 session which he still would have qualified for, due to scoring tenth position during FP3. The high side occurred in the first corner while Espargaro was intending to post a fast lap to establish his appearance in qualifying 2.
However, a small piece of glass damaged the oil radiator and formed a small hole which caused a very fine leak of oil which was invisible to the rider. The 23 year old still hopes to contest in tomorrow's 20 lap battle in Malaysia and the final decision will be made after his physical conditions have been examined before the warm up. In case of Espargaro choosing to participate in the race, he will have to start from 12th on the grid as he was counted as the last of the top twelve riders in QP2.
Bradley Smith (9th / 2'01.263 / 8 laps): "Overall, I am pleased with the work that we were able to undertake today as I believe that we extracted the most that we could from the bike. We successfully managed to overcome some of the issues which I experienced yesterday and now we will analyse the data in order to establish where I can make further improvements. It appears as though sector three is a key area which I need to focus on in order to have a strong performance.
I feel confident for tomorrow, but we must remain realistic with our expectations in the fight against our rivals in the championship. It will be vital to have a good start plus I need to be consistent for the entire 20 laps with the race being a long one and the humidity making it even more challenging. However, I feel ready and am quite excited for the demanding battle where I aim to score some more valuable championship points."
Pol Espargaro (12th / 2'01.855 / - laps): "It was a tough day and I am feeling sore after the heavy fall, but we must move on and I still hope to be able to compete in tomorrow’s race. I saw Dovizioso and Redding pointing to let me know something wasn’t right on the rear, but I couldn’t see anything wrong with the bike as the oil leak was so small. Therefore I continued riding normally as the bike felt the same and there was no reduction in power on the straight, but then I hit the brakes and fell at the first corner as oil had slipped onto the rear tyre.
Fortunately, the consequences could have been worse but I still have a broken foot and the middle finger of my right hand is in a lot of pain also. My crew chief explained what happened to me and I still find it quite unbelievable. It was a very strange day all in all. I crashed at the beginning of the session, yet it was just a small fall and nothing serious. I managed to improve gradually from there and was making some good steps forward as we solved a few issues which I wasn’t able to amend yesterday due to the rain but then I fell again.
If I can race, I hope to be in a position to try and use the warm up to make further adjustments to the bike, but the most difficult aspect to deal with will be changing the gears. We have to forget about today now. I have never ridden in this condition, but we will see how I recover overnight and will then make a decision about the race tomorrow."
Seventh place for Aleix Espargaro at Sepang
It was a good qualifying session for the NGM Forward Racing rider Aleix Espargaro, who finished with the seventh best lap time. Team mate Alex De Angelis finished in 18th position setting a lap time of 2.03.165.
Espargaro, despite a problem with his eye, that compromised the morning session, was among the protagonists in qualifying fighting with the front guys for the first two rows. Setting a lap time of 2.00.801 he will take the start from the third row alongside Crutchlow and Smith.
It was a difficult qualifying session for Alex De Angelis, who – unlike the other riders- didn’t take part to the winter test at Sepang. De Angelis will take the start from the sixth row and will aim at getting some important points for the championship.
Aleix Espargaro (7th / 2'00.801 / 6 laps): “Sepang is a demanding track both for the rider and the machine. There are two long straights and we lose something there, but anyway we can be competitive. All in all it was a good qualifying session. We finished seventh and tomorrow we will do our best to get points for the championship and defend the sixth overall position.”
Alex De Angelis (18th / 2'03.165 / 6 laps): “In the afternoon I could improve of almost one second and this is positive. I have a good feeling with the bike. This will be the most demanding race of the season for the torrid temperatures. Moreover, as I was not here in the winter test, we needed to work more. Regarding the race, I’m confident that we can fight with the other open bikes and get some points for the championship.”