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Solid Start in Sepang for Yamaha

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP 102315

Free practice

The last of the overseas triple-header Grand Prix has kicked off today at the Sepang International Circuit with the first two free practice sessions ahead of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix. Jorge Lorenzo jumped into action and set the fastest time of the weekend so far, with team-mate Valentino Rossi wrapping up the day in fifth position in the combined times.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi have started the action in the first free practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s penultimate round of the championship.

Lorenzo successfully started off the 25th anniversary of the Malaysia Grand Prix weekend during the slightly hazy morning session. The relatively cool temperatures on track helped the Majorcan rider to make his intentions clear. Aware that every session is important for the outcome of the championship as he attempts to close down the gap to Rossi in the overall standings, he come out of the starting block flying, and posted a best lap of 2’00.622s for second place.

Happy that the usual tropical rain showers at Sepang in the afternoon did not make an appearance today, the Majorcan continued to make progress during the hotter FP2 session. He focused on perfecting his setting until, with eight minutes of the session remaining, it was time to put his YZR-M1 to the test under similar conditions that can be expected for the race if it stays dry. Without further ado he delivered the fastest time of the day of 2’00.246s to lead the first day with a 0.047s advantage over his closest rival.

Teammate Rossi will have his first ‘match point’ this weekend against Lorenzo. The Italian’s eleven-point advantage in the championship standings could potentially earn him the 2015 MotoGP World Championship Title this weekend, depending on Sunday’s race results. With this motivation to push him above and beyond, the nine-time World Champion hit the ground running. Rossi made the most of the dry 45 minutes session and set a solid pace. His best lap of 2’00.915s in the morning session brought him up to fourth place.

In the afternoon the Doctor solely focused on further improving his set-up and tried several tyre and bike setting combinations to suit his riding style best. He worked tirelessly on the baking Malaysian track, but did not improve on his morning time, clocking a fastest time of 2’01.305s. However, his morning’s time was fast enough for him to hold on to fifth place in the combined free practice times, 0.669s behind his teammate.

Jorge Lorenzo
1st / 2’00.246 / 29 laps

“We are working very well on the setting of the bike. We have a good pace both with the old and the new tyre, we just need to improve some details, but overall it’s good. This afternoon it was very hot. It will depend on tomorrow’s weather, but I think the bike can be further improved so I can better my lap time.”

Valentino Rossi
5th / 2’00.915 / 33 laps

“This morning we had a good pace and in the afternoon we worked well until the last time we exited the box. We used a hard tyre to get an understanding of our capabilities, but unfortunately we didn’t finish our work, because when we put on the softer tyre I had some problems with chatter and was not able to understand my potential. We will have to wait for tomorrow morning to also see what our level is with the medium tyres. It’s too early to say if this will affect qualifying. The most important thing tomorrow will be to understand if it was the bike or the tyre that created too much vibration, but we still have another set of tyres, so we can manage.”

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“Today was a strong start to the Malaysian Grand Prix weekend. In the morning both our riders were pretty fast and set competitive times in the relatively cooler conditions. In the afternoon Jorge continued to make good progress. He had a solid pace, having set the fastest time of the day, he seems set for a strong result this weekend. Vale struggled when he put on the softer tyres in the afternoon and will do further testing on it tomorrow. However, his pace on the harder tyres was quite good and showed that he is feeling confident at the Sepang track and so is the team as well. We will continue to work to prepare some improvements overnight and look forward to a ‘hot’ qualifying session tomorrow.”

Preparations begin for the Tech3 pair at day 1 in Malaysia

Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Pol Espargaro produced a resolute effort on the first day of practice at the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix and battled to 13th overall. When the opening 45 minute morning session commenced, Espargaro threw his leg over his Yamaha YZR-M1 as he aimed to complete the first run at Sepang solidly. With a positive test having been achieved before the dawn of the season, the Spaniard started by experimenting with various aspects of the bike in order to make it more competitive in low grip conditions. He concluded a total of 18 laps around the circuit whilst testing the key areas in the opening shakedown and finished in 13th, yet he looked set to make a step up in the afternoon. Here, his hard work continued with the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team as he tirelessly pushed onwards and he completed free practice 2 with a best time of 2’01.850 which he set on his last lap. This time was an improvement of 0.409 from his opening gambit and the Spaniard now aims to progress with his efforts tomorrow in FP3 ahead of the all important qualifying campaign.

On the opposite side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team garage, Bradley Smith started his Malaysian campaign with a firm display at the penultimate round of the 2015 MotoGP World Championship as he ended the opening day in 14th overall. When the fight commenced, Smith leapt onto his Yamaha YZR-M1 and he began to alter the base setup of his MotoGP bike to suit the challenging 5.5 kilometre circuit. The British rider finished the practice in 15th, yet he remained confident of improving in the afternoon. There, he launched straight back into his groove as he aimed to lower his lap time and make advances in preparation for Sunday’s main event. During the practice, Smith completed 19 laps, the highest number of any MotoGP rider and his personal best time of 2’02.101 which he set on his 7th lap, left him in 14th in the combined standings. After a challenging day, the 24 year old now sets his sights on seeing out his qualifying campaign with a strong performance tomorrow ahead of the 17th round battle on Sunday.

Pol Espargaro
13th / 2’01.850 / 34 laps

“For sure, we didn’t start the weekend in the way that we wanted to, but it goes without saying that today was the best time to try different settings. We already knew that the opening day is not usually our strongest point during an event as we struggle a lot with the lower grip level. Therefore, we decided to invest some time and alter several aspects of the bike in order to improve, particularly in these kind of conditions. So, we collected a lot of information today and we will now analyse which direction we need to head towards. Anyway, we are confident that, just like in Phillip Island, the situation will improve as soon as the track gets a bit more grip and then, we will be able to reduce the gap to the front guys. So now we’ll work hard in order to be ready to bounce back strongly during tomorrow’s practice sessions.”

Bradley Smith
14th / 2’02.101 / 37 laps

“It’s good to be back at Sepang which is a track that I enjoy riding at, but I must admit that today was quite a struggle and to be completely honest, we have some work to do. As soon as I started this morning, my confidence and feeling wasn’t quite the same as usual with the bike and it’s difficult to understand why after the positive test that we had here in February. At the moment, we are unfortunately stuck inside the 2’02 bracket, which of course, is not where we want or need to be. However, a positive is that we are not just struggling with one specific factor but we need to improve the bike as a whole which means it is easier to find some solutions. Anyway, towards the end of the second free practice session, we were able to improve slightly, yet there is plenty of work to do tomorrow still. Overall, we tried a lot of different settings today in order to identify which direction to head towards and now we will have an in depth look at the data and then see what we can do. It was a tricky start today, but for sure, tomorrow we will be stronger.”

A day of work for the Forward Racing team at Sepang

A day of intense work ended for the Forward Racing team at the circuit of Sepang, that this weekend hosts the Malaysian Grand Prix. Loris Baz and Toni Elias used the free practice to find the right setup for the Yamaha Forward on this track characterised by high temperatures.

Baz, who struggled in the first session with grip and the electronics, finished the day with a best time of 2’03.429, which earned him the 22nd place in the combined standings. The Frenchman remains confident for qualifying where the goal is to reduce the gap to the other Open bikes.

It was also a busy day for Toni Elias who finished the afternoon session with a good 2’03.710 in 23rd place. The Spaniard, who suffered from the high temperatures in the morning, improved his lap time by almost eight tenths in the afternoon on this track that is well suited to his driving style.

Loris Baz
22nd / 2’03.429 / 29 laps

“Compared to the February test the weather conditions are totally different and it was not easy to adapt to the track especially in the morning session. In the afternoon the conditions changed and I could not find the right grip for pushing hard. We continue to work: the aim is to improve the lap time for qualifying.”

Toni Elias
23rd / 2’03.710 / 31 laps

“I tried new solutions during this free practice day. Compared to the others I was not here during the winter test and today I used all the time for focusing on the setup. Sepang is a track I really like which suits on my driving style – so I’m motivated to do well. We have to find the right grip.”