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Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Spurt to Double Front Row in Sepang Qualifying

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Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo made another step forward today, getting more familiar with the resurfaced Sepang International Circuit in various conditions ahead of tomorrow’s Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix. The teammates wrapped up qualifying in second and third place respectively, taking their sixth double front row start of the season.

Rossi enjoyed the 15-minute qualifying heat today, despite the uncertain conditions on a wet track testing the rider skills to the limit. He was quick to exit pit lane and immediately put his head down to set a fast lap under a threatening sky. The Doctor set a first flying lap of 2’13.135s to take provisional pole position before being pushed back to second. On his next laps he improved his time but not his place and found himself lying in fourth.

As the last minutes counted down Rossi dug deep and delivered a scorching 2’11.828s lap to take provisional third, before a final hot lap of 2’11.731s moved him ahead of his teammate into second, 0.246s from pole.

Lorenzo shared a similar positive experience to his teammate. The Mallorcan was the first rider to head out on the damp track to lead the charge for pole position. His first lap, a 2’13.746s briefly put him in first place before other riders clocked their first times and pushed him back to fifth. He improved to second place with a 2’12.098s but was pushed back to third and although he set a new personal best lap on his third attempt, he remained in third place.

As the lap times began to tumble with three minutes remaining Lorenzo immediately took second with a 2’11.787s for second place. He tried to keep the pressure on, but overheated tyres held him back from attempting a perfect lap. His best time, however, was enough to take third on the grid, 0.302s from pole.

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“Today was a very positive day for us. Thanks to the dry session this morning and the wet session in the afternoon we have been able to test our settings for all conditions and the riders are quite satisfied, which showed during qualifying. Valentino and Jorge both did a very good job in an unusual qualifying session and it’s great to see them both on the front row of the grid. We still have some work to do for tomorrow’s warm-up because we still have some room to improve the bike in both the wet and the dry. The weather is very unpredictable and the weather forecasts predict all possible conditions, but we feel confident we can do a good job in all circumstances.”

Valentino Rossi
2nd / 2’11.731 / 7 laps

“It was a difficult session and completely different from normal. In qualifying you usually have two laps and after that another new tyre and another two laps. Today we had to start, try to not make any mistakes, put temperature into the tyres, but at the same time you have to push. Second place is very good. I feel comfortable, especially because we improved both the setting and the braking compared to the FP4. We have to work, but starting from the front row is very good.”

Jorge Lorenzo
3rd / 2’11.787 / 7 laps

“In Sepang, in the rain, I’ve always been fast, so it doesn’t surprise me that this weekend I would be competitive in the rain, because the grip of the track is very good. Maybe I pushed a bit too much in the beginning. On some laps I could have slowed down to cool down the tyres to attack on the last lap, but I didn’t do this, I just kept running and at the end the tyre was too hot to improve the last three or four tenths. Anyway it’s a good position, third place in the rain, and I’m quite happy.”

Espargaro to launch from the 4th row of the grid at the Malaysian GP

Monster Yamaha Tech3 team rider Pol Espargaro battled against the challenging weather conditions during the qualifying today at Sepang and will kick off tomorrow’s race from 11th on the grid. The 25-year-old immediately got on the pace in the dry morning session and after completing 15 laps, his personal best left him in 9th, which allowed him to qualify for Q2. Yet, the unpredictable Malaysian weather struck again and a downpour occurred shortly before FP4 which caused this practice and both of the qualifying shootout sessions to be wet. Nevertheless, the Spaniard got straight to work in Q2, and here, he rolled the dice by entering the pits after one lap to change to the soft compound of wet rear tyre. Proceeding this, he returned to the track and pushed onwards as he dodged the rain before he finally met the chequered flag in 11th. Tomorrow, the 2013 Moto2 World Champion will seek to continue his impressive recent form in the second half of the season by fighting to finish as close as possible to the factory MotoGP bikes.

Meanwhile, Bradley Smith powered through the rain and will begin the 17th round of the 2016 World Championship from the 5th row of the grid after pulling off a relentless charge today. He began by completing the morning practice session in 14th, as he narrowly missed out on the cut off point for Q2 by a mere 0.177 of a second. Yet, later on, the determined 25-year-old commenced his Qualifying One campaign in the wet conditions and he built up his pace before eventually setting his quickest time that left him only 0.014 back from the QP2 qualification slots. This performance saw him seal 13th and now, Smith confidently targets a top ten result in tomorrow’s race as he aims to round up the consecutive flyaway GP’s with a third solid result despite still riding with a damaged knee.

Pol Espargaro
11th / 2’13.707 / 7 laps

“To be honest, today we had to face quite a challenging day and the weather conditions didn’t really help us improve our situation. This morning in the dry, I struggled a bit, even though the track was better in comparison to yesterday but, I never felt completely comfortable, plus the bike was lazy in acceleration. Then again, towards the end of the session, things seemed to work in a better way and I managed to ride a competitive lap which enabled me to pass through to QP2. Unfortunately, with FP4 being wet, we couldn’t try the modifications that we believed would improve our situation in the dry, so I hope that there will be no rain in the warm up tomorrow so that we can assess these settings. Also in the wet, it took me quite a while to feel good on the bike, but the more laps that I got under my belt, the more my confidence grew. However, for some reason the bike seemed to be completely different in QP2, even if we didn’t make any changes and we were struggling which a lack of traction, so I couldn’t go any faster. This is a big pity, because after the strong qualifying that I had in Australia, my expectations were a lot higher. Now we need to analyse the data in order to understand what happened so that we can be prepared for tomorrow’s race which, for sure, will be a tricky one as I haven’t given myself an easy task by starting from the fourth row of the grid.”

Bradley Smith
13th / 2’12.898 / 7 laps

“Once again the conditions today were not ideal which made everything harder than usual but now I am prepared for either a wet or dry race tomorrow and I am looking forward to the fight. This morning, I felt quite strong on the bike and I was certain that I could reach Q2, however, I made a silly mistake at the last corner, which prevented me from progressing. Having said that, I was comfortable on my Yamaha in that session and we collected a lot of vital data, which we will need if the race is dry. Then, later on in FP4, I had a good feeling in the wet on both compounds of tyre. So in qualifying, we took a gamble but unfortunately it didn’t quite work which is a little frustrating as we were so close to making it into QP2. Yet, when we look at the bigger picture, I am pleased that I am back to my competitive level and it’s positive that my knee injury keeps improving. I am as far forward as I can be without going into the second qualifying shootout, and now we will have to wait and see about what happens with the weather tomorrow. Either way, I am optimistic about my chances and I will give 110%.”