Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo (99) is off to a good start on his championship quest after capturing the top spot on the timesheets during Friday’s practice at Sepang.
Under the sweltering heat and humidity of Malaysia, Lorenzo posted a blistering time of 2’02.180 with Stoner +0.064 behind. Despite some pain in his hand from last Sunday’s get-off, Lorenzo remains focused on the championship fight. The Mallorcan said, “I was riding quite aggressively today and I felt good on the bike right from the start, so I am very happy about this after what happened last weekend. It’s very hot and it’s really hard work to ride out there, but I feel okay. Unfortunately I have some pain in my finger where I hurt it on Sunday, it’s not too bad but the cut is right on the knuckle, so it’s a bit painful when I have to bend it to brake. Anyway, like I said on Sunday it could be a lot worse! I love riding at this track despite the heat and our bike is working well so I am hopeful for a good weekend.”
Stoner further proved he is back in top form as he tackled the heat on the Sepang circuit and was a mere 0.067 off of Lorenzo’s time. The Aussie struggled with set-up and traction issues for a good portion of practice, switching back and forth between bikes. “The lap times are surprisingly good considering the track conditions, which are definitely suffering from the heat and feel much less grippy than usual here. Having said that I didn’t feel at all comfortable with the setting on either bike. Every time I went out there was a small problem holding us back – at first it was with the front chattering and folding, then we lost grip on the rear. There was no use staying out there on a bike that needed to be set up better so I had to keep coming in, which disrupted our rhythm and didn’t give me chance to establish any kind of feeling. We made progress step by step but we need a better base to start off with tomorrow in order to prepare properly for the race,” commented Stoner.
After standing on the podium for the last two years, Pedrosa is hoping for yet another and he is well on his way by setting the third-fastest lap. The Spaniard, who looks to regain third in the championship race, said, “I’ve won here previously with Honda in the 125 and 250 classes, and I’d really like to add a MotoGP win to those victories. It could be tough, because we know how fast our rivals have been recently, but, still, the win is what we’ll be aiming for, as always, and also to challenge Casey (Stoner) for third in the championship.”
Despite finishing with the fourth-quickest time, Rossi remains positive for Sunday’s race. “I am quite happy about today, even if the time and the position isn’t perfect. We worked mainly with old tires to understand the nature of the bike when it’s sliding, which is important here, but actually my pace was very consistent and I think we can make another step tomorrow,” remarked The Doctor. “We still need to find a little bit more grip so we will look to improve the setting of the bike for this in the morning – it’s going to be very important to be on the front row for Sunday.”
Andrea Dovizioso graced fifth aboard his Repsol Honda ride with Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi earning sixth on the timesheets. Fellow Honda rider, Toni Elias finished in seventh with Nicky Hayden garnering eighth on his Ducati Desmosedici.
Texan Colin Edwards piloted his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 to a ninth-place time just +0.313 behind Hayden with Chris Vermeulen taking the final top-ten spot on his Rizla Suzuki GSVR.
MotoGP Sepang Practice:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2’02.180
2. Casey Stoner (Ducati) +0.064
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +0.578
4. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) +0.684
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) +0.962
6. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) +1.073
7. Toni Elias (Honda) +1.114
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) +1.246
9. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) +1.559
10. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) +1.583
Dani Pedrosa – Repsol Honda:
“Sepang is a good circuit and I always look forward to this race. The track has a fast and challenging layout, plus the hot, humid conditions we encounter here always means this is a physically demanding race for the riders, although we’re well prepared for it. It will certainly be a big contrast to the cold weather conditions we rode in at Phillip Island last weekend. At the moment, we are looking to improve the stability of our machine and it’s important that from the first moments of practice that we use all the preparation time available to us to arrive at the best possible package for this race.”
Andrea Dovizioso – Repsol Honda:
“I really look forward to racing in Malaysia as this is my favourite track and I have good memories here. Last year I had a strong race in Sepang and scored my first podium in MotoGP on the RC212V for the Scot Honda team. I’m also confident about this weekend, because during the last part of the race in Australia my feeling with the bike improved a lot, and if we make a good start in practice on Friday I think we can go on to be competitive in the race. As we saw in Australia, it’s so important to secure a good position on the grid if you want to fight for the leading positions. Sepang is an excellent circuit and because of this I enjoy the Malaysia Grand Prix very much. It’s a complete track, with various fast and slow sections, and also the circuit is wide, which lets you try different lines. With the MotoGP bike, it is really fun and it’ll be great to get back out there Friday.”
Nicky Hayden – Ducati Marlboro:
“I know my position isn’t great but this is still the best Friday I’ve had in a while and we’re only just over a second off the front, which isn’t that much around this circuit, so I’m pleased. We made a change to the electronics today, which has improved my feeling for the bike, and I was able to lap consistently inside the top ten throughout the session, whereas usually I’m much further off in the first session. Obviously there are a lot of areas we need to improve, like every Friday, but in particular we need to look at why I am fourth from bottom on the top speed charts. That’s strange because we know we have a strong bike so we’ll try and fix that tonight because I’d certainly rather be fourth from the top! In general it’s a good start and I’m eager to see how much we can improve with ninety minutes on track tomorrow.”
Alex De Angelis – San Carlo Gresini Honda:
“In theory Malaysia will be more difficult for us because our strength all season has been in the fast corners, which there are a lot of at Phillip Island but not so many at Sepang. There are a lot of hairpins where you need good acceleration and drive out of the corners and this has been a weak point for us. Having said that, I am in great form at the moment, the bike is working well and we are full of confidence. I’m going there seventh in the championship, with a smile on my face and really looking forward to competing again.”
Randy De Puniet – LCR Honda:
“We had quite a good weekend in Australia, but everything changes in Malaysia. The conditions are so different – maybe from 16 degrees to 35 degrees – that the bike changes, the tires change and the feel you get from the machine changes. It will therefore be important to work very well during the three sessions. I had a good battle with Dovizioso, Kallio and Melandri at Phillip Island and I hope we have more fun this Sunday.”
Toni Elias – San Carlo Gresini Honda:
“Australia was a difficult weekend for us but we knew it would be and there were no surprises. The good thing was that we stayed well in touch with seventh place in the championship and my goal over the final two races is to achieve that position. We had problems with rear traction at Phillip Island and it has been our Achilles heel all season but we are very confident it won’t be a problem in Malaysia. I love the track and the conditions will suit us much better, so hopefully the race is more like the others we have experienced in the second half of this championship, with a competitive weekend fighting for a top-six finish.”
Gabor Talmacsi – Scot Honda MotoGP:
“I’m very positive about Sepang. I love the track. I’ve got two victories, there in the 125cc class. We analyzed the data from Phillip Island to have a better performance next weekend, because I feel I can fight for a better position. It will be hot, but I’m not worried. If I can have an easier bike, there will be no problems.”