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 teammate 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, however, smashing Dani Pedrosa’s former lap record even further. 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.
That makes Dovizioso the only non-Iwata marque machine 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. He 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.
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). 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.
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). 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, with Frenchman despite a slow lowside.
The likes of Petrucci, Mir and Bagnaia will have their eyes to the skies on Saturday as once again the forecast looks set to close in and throw a spanner in the works of improving laptimes in FP3, and then there’s qualifying itself from 15:05 (GMT +8).
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.
The intermediate class are back on track on Saturday morning 09:55 local time (GMT+8), with one of the most pivotal qualifying sessions of the season getting underway at 13:30.
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.
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