Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales enjoyed a full-on second day of MotoGP action at the Sepang International Circuit. Today in FP3 and FP4 they continued working on their YZR-M1s in dry conditions. After they both secured places in the Q2 session, the pair went on to set some seriously impressive lap times, under the 2’00s-mark, to secure fourth and fifth place respectively on the grid for tomorrow’s Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Having set the fastest time in FP3 and the combined free practice timesheets, Rossi was motivated to do his passionate Malaysian fans proud again in Q2 and quickly headed towards the pit lane exit, in the midst of the rider field. His first flying lap put him in seventh place and he briefly moved up to fifth on his next attempt, but was pushed back to eighth as he made his way back to the pit box.
With four minutes on the clock the Doctor was back for a second run at the 5.5 km long circuit. He had time for two more tries and was determined to make the most of them. He set a 1’59.498s to take over pole briefly, but late efforts from his rivals after the flag came out relegated him to fourth position, 0.286s from first. Unable to improve on his last lap, the Italian will start tomorrow’s race from the second row of the grid.
Viñales approached the Q2 session with a different tactic than his teammate. Despite the fact that the lengthy track allows little time for multiple hot laps, he waited until most of the other riders had left pit lane before stepping aboard his Yamaha. Enjoying some clear space, his first attempt saw him settle into fifth position and he quickly followed this up with a provisional front row result, posting a 1’59.673s for second place.
The Spaniard made a quick pit stop with a little less than seven minutes remaining and was ready to put his head down again two minutes later, as the times dropped. He wasn’t able to improve on his next attempt, but turned up the heat on his final flying lap and set a 1’59.538s to move up from fifth to third. However, a last-minute flurry of activity after the chequered flag was already out, saw him end the session in fifth place, 0.326s from the front. Tomorrow he will line up on the second row of the starting grid, right beside his teammate.
Keen-eyed spectators might have noticed a difference in the livery of the bikes today. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders were showing off the orange ENEOS branding on the lower cowling, to highlight the long-standing partnership between Yamaha and JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy (the brand owner of ENEOS), that started in 2012.
Position: 4th – Time: 1’59.498 – Laps: 7
“In general it was a good day, because already from this morning I felt good with the bike. Into qualifying we were still working, because the level of the top five or six riders was very close, it was very balanced, we’re all the same. I tried to push, my lap was good, I rode well. The lap time was OK, I saw P1 at that moment, but after that the others improved. Starting from P4 is a good position, but we have to work on the balance of the bike because I’m not fast enough yet in some places. Like always, the tyre decision and the weather conditions will be very important tomorrow. For me it’s still open which tyre to use on the front and for the rear, we have to decide if we go with the medium or the hard and also the combination between the two, it depends. First of all, I hope for good weather tomorrow, so we can try to race with the slicks.”
Position: 5th – Time: 1’59.538 – Laps: 7
“Today’s qualifying was very close, all the riders’ times were very close together. We are 0.3s from first and I’m happy. In FP3 I didn’t feel so well, but then we made some changes on the bike in FP4 and I felt good again. I think that for tomorrow we still have some room for improvement and that’s very important. I feel really good and I think I have a clear idea on which tyre I’ll use for the race. I’m especially happy because there were many races where throughout the weekend we didn’t make good steps forward, but here we made great progress. We have to be very intelligent about tomorrow’s race, first of all about deciding on the tyres. We have to choose the best option for our bike. In the end I think we have the package, I’m good on the brakes and feel strong there compared to the other riders, so let’s see if we can get the job done tomorrow.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – Team Director
“Today was quite full-on for the team, in order for us to make another step concerning the dry set-up of the bike. It wasn’t easy, because it was another hot day at the Sepang track, which makes riding three sessions in total a real challenge, but our riders came through. Valentino and Maverick were finally quite comfortable with their bikes and were able to push hard. Vale had already shown he’s feeling good on the dry when he set the fastest time in FP3. His pace has been very fast in all of today’s sessions and his fourth position on the grid is not a bad result. Maverick wasn’t quite as comfortable in this morning’s session, but he and his crew could improve his feeling just in time for the qualifying. He’ll also be on the second row of the grid, which is a good starting point. Today we were able to compare almost all the tyre choices and we have a bit of an idea about which tyres both riders will use in tomorrow’s race. We’ll continue to work tonight to see if we can find a way to fine-tune the balance of the bikes and find some extra time in some parts of the track. Here the weather can play a big role in the outcome of the race, so we’ll have to adapt to whatever situation comes our way.”
Remarkable Zarco Soars to 2nd in Malaysian GP Qualifying – Van der Mark Primed for Debut Race
Johann Zarco showed his sublime talent by clinching his third consecutive front row start today in Malaysia. The rapid French rookie blazed to a lap time that left him first in the final moments of the thrilling session until he was pipped to pole by a mere 0.017. Nevertheless, the highly impressive result places him as the top Yamaha on the grid and tomorrow, he aims to close the flyaway races with a podium finish.
Meanwhile, stand-in rider Michael van der Mark will make his MotoGP debut from the 8th row on the grid after a determined performance today at the Sepang International circuit. His impressive performances throughout the weekend so far leave him confident for the main event, which begins at 15:00 local time, or 08:00 in central Europe.
Position: 2nd – Time: 1’59.229 – Laps: 7
“It is so important to start the Grand Prix on the front row of the grid, and I even expected pole position because I was in first for a small amount of time at the end of Qualifying 2. I am happy because to be fast on a single lap is a good thing, but my pace is very competitive, so if we have dry and warm conditions tomorrow, then I think I will be able to win the race if I manage everything well. We will see what happens with regards to the weather, but I am just delighted to have this confidence which allows me to push in this way and I have high hopes for the round 17 fight.”
Michael van der Mark
Position: 22nd – Time: 2’02.376 – Laps: 5
“I am a bit disappointed with the qualifying result. This morning in FP3, we made quite a solid step but, position wise, it wasn’t where I wanted to be, yet we have still made progress. In the afternoon, I had an issue with the rear grip and then, on the first lap, I struggled with the new tyre. On the second outing I felt better, but at turn five, I lost the front without warning. This is difficult to accept and I am sorry to the team as we were making steady progress in every session, but a crash is not what you want. The fall was due to a number of things and the track temperature was high, plus I don’t have much experience of this. Everyone was fast and this morning, you can see that I was only two seconds from the top, which was good and promising. I was hoping to make another step to the group in front of me because there are only a few tenths away. Now, we need to work because the rear of the bike is spinning too much at the exit of the corners and that’s the main factor to focus on. Anyway, tomorrow is race day, and I will gain a lot of experience but I hope I can fight with some riders and enjoy my time.”
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