Dani Pedrosa continues to set the pace among MotoGP riders, posting the top time during practice at Sepang.
Heavy rains hit portions of the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia before the second MotoGP free practice session, leading many to remain in the garage rather than run laps on a half-dry track. Conditions were dry for the first session though and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa
logged the top time, beating out teammate Casey Stoner
by 0.152 seconds. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo
was third-fastest, coming in three-tenths of a second behind Pedrosa.
Pedrosa was able run 16 laps during the morning practice and worked to get rear wheel vibration problems under control on his RC213V. The Spaniard did a sighting lap in FP2, but since track conditions were inconsistent he decided to forego any additional laps.
"We've been lucky to have the first practice in the dry to begin setting up the bike for the race because as we've seen in the last few days sooner or later it rains here,” said Pedrosa. “The track was a little dirty in the morning and the grip level quite poor, but the lap times were not so bad and the conditions will improve throughout the weekend. In the morning I had a lot of vibration in the rear which we think was a problem with the wheel balance. I did a sighting lap in the afternoon and it was full wet until turn 4 but from there, full dry, so we decided to stay in the pits.”
Casey Stoner showed improvement from the previous round at Motegi, coming in second during practice at Sepang.
Stoner continued to deal with pain in his right ankle, but his performance was significantly improved compared to his showing in the previous round at Motegi, a physically demanding track that left Stoner exhausted. The Australian missed three rounds of competition while rehabilitating the injury and marked his return at the Japanese Grand Prix, where, despite fatigue, he finished in fifth. He currently holds the circuit record lap time at Sepang, set in 2007, and will be looking to contend with Pedrosa and Lorenzo in the lead pack come Sunday.
“I definitely feel more comfortable here than I did in Japan, I'm not sure if this is time on the bike or the fact that this track isn't quite so demanding on my right leg,” said Stoner. “The circuit goes to the right a lot, but there aren't so many slow corners that I need to pick the bike up from and I'm getting a better feeling here so the lap times came easier.”
Lorenzo has been one of the steadiest riders on the grid all season and his concern at Sepang is to protect his championship points lead. The Mallorcan has never won a race at the Malaysian circuit in the premier-class. He crashed out in 2008 and had to battle from the back of the grid in 2009, working his way up to fourth by the checkers. He was third in 2010, a finish that gave him enough points to clinch the world championship title for the year. Lorenzo will look to break through to his first victory at the circuit on Sunday, but as has been the case in the previous two rounds, will settle in to finish out of the lead to ensure a points haul if it feels too risky to battle out front. He faced some slight acceleration problems during the morning practice and will work to address those issues before race-day.
Jorge Lorenzo was third-fastest, but wasn't far off Pedrosa's pace, lagging 0.313 seconds behind the Repsol rider.
“This morning was great, from the beginning I was competitive and more or less at the same pace as Dani and Casey,” said Lorenzo. “Casey especially is much stronger than he was in Japan. This afternoon unfortunately we couldn’t practice because of the weather. We need to improve the behavior of the bike in acceleration for tomorrow, it’s a little nervous so we need to make it a little easier."
Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso
led among satellite riders, coming in fourth-fastest. He ended the morning practice confident since his lap times continued to improve over the course of the session, his fastest flying-lap just six-tenths off Pedrosa’s lead pace. He’s had luck at Sepang in the past, earning his first premier-class podium finish there in 2008 where he took third and then finishing second in 2010. He crashed out during the competition in 2009, but had battled from outside the top-10 to run in third before the incident. Dovi’s amassed six podiums this year, but has struggled to keep up with Lorenzo and the Repsol riders out front. Overall, despite the afternoon rain which kept him from implementing changes to his bike set-up, he is optimistic about his potential to challenge for a seventh podium finish this season.
“The track was very slippery this morning but I was pleased to finish fourth and my lap time was fast and competitive,” said Dovizioso. “I could go faster at the end of the session even with a lot of laps on the rear tire, so it is a promising start to the weekend. I wanted to try some important changes to the set-up of the bike this afternoon but the rain that fell before the start meant we couldn't do the work we had planned.”
Stefan Bradl struggled with grip and chattering issues early in practice at Sepang, but was able to post the seventh-fastest time before the end of the morning session.
Dovi’s teammate, Cal Crutchlow
, followed close behind in fifth with Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies trailing slightly in sixth. LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl was seventh, 0.996 off Pedrosa’s top lap time. The German rookie faced chatter issues and low grip in the morning, partially due to the dirty track surface. He ran a few laps during the afternoon as well, but the inconsistent conditions made it impossible for him to see whether changes to the bike’s configuration had resolved the earlier problems.
“This morning first outing was very difficult because the surface was very dirty and the grip very low,” said Bradl. “We struggled with some chattering problems, which we wanted to adjust in the afternoon, but unfortunately the weather was unstable with patches of heavy rain in some parts of the track and we could not proceed with our job.”
Ducati’s Nicky Hayden
was eighth-fastest, riding with the new swingarm that his teammate Valentino Rossi
began using after the round at Misano. He felt the change gave him more feeling in the rear of the bike and he was nearly two seconds faster than during practice sessions in 2011. He tried two laps during the afternoon session just to get a feel for the wet portion, in case rains hit for the main event on Sunday.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista
took ninth, followed by Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera
in 10th. Rossi trailed in 11th, struggling throughout the morning to find a suitable set-up since many of the changes made for Motegi didn’t translate to the demands of the Sepang circuit. He ran a number of laps during the afternoon session, but didn’t make up much ground since conditions made it difficult to gauge whether the return to a standard configuration was effective.
Valentino Rossi had to return to a more standard set-up than he ran at Motegi, but was unable to test the effectiveness of the changes due to rains in the afternoon.
“We had continued working with some changes that we used at Motegi, where they’d helped us to have a little more grip under acceleration,” said Rossi. “Here, though, they weren't as effective because they cause a lot of understeer. This afternoon it was important to be able to work because we wanted to return to a more standard setup, like at Aragón and Misano. I tried riding a little in an effort to understand as much as possible, but it’s difficult in these conditions. There’s nothing we can do about it, so we’ll have to wait until tomorrow.”
Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham was 12th, followed by the top CRT rider of the day, Randy de Puniet of Power Electronics Aspar, in 13th. His teammate, Aleix Espargaro, took 14th with American Colin Edwards
of NGM Mobile Forward Racing in 15th.
MotoGP Sepang Friday Results 2012:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2’01.621
2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 2’01.773
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2’01.934
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 2’02.236
5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 2’02.266
6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2’02.358
7. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 2’02.617
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2’02.754
9. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 2’02.872
10. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 2’03.221
11. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 2’03.274
12. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 2’04.624
13. Randy de Puniet (ART) 2’05.029
14. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 2’05.077
15. Colin Edwards (Suter) 2’05.387
16. Michele Pirro (FTR) 2’06.058
17. James Ellison (ART) 2’06.452
18. Roberto Rolfo (ART) 2’06.470
19. Yonny Hernandez (BQR) 2’07.257
20. Ivan Silva (BQR) 2’07.291
21. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda-Suter) 2’07.818