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Sound Start for Movistar Yamaha MotoGP at Damp Sepang Track

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The Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix got underway today at the Sepang International Circuit in mixed conditions. Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo spent the morning and afternoon session working through a base set-up to try and get a feel for the drying track and its new tarmac.

During the sunny morning session Rossi positioned himself as a key protagonist from the get-go of the last 2016 overseas Grand Prix weekend. Despite damp patches on the drying track, the Doctor made solid improvements over the first practice and finished in fifth position with a best lap of 2’01.611s, 0.401s from first.

After some heavy rain over lunch, the afternoon session saw more of the same from the Italian. Back out on a wet and drying track, he swiftly took provisional second place on his third lap before focusing his attention on finding a good wet weather set-up in order to be fully prepared for all circumstances come Sunday. Rossi ran out of time to set a lap on slicks when a dry lined formed at the very end of the session. A 2’13.416s best lap, set before a late flurry of activity, saw the nine-time World Champion wrap up the FP2 in 13th place. However, as no riders were able to improve on their best laps due to the damp conditions, he held on to fifth in the combined time sheets.

Lorenzo also had a good first outing in Sepang. He used the first 45-minute session to find an optimum set-up for the Malaysian circuit. Having found a good rhythm on his first laps, it didn’t take him long to ride his YZR-M1 to second place. He remained a top five contender, with a best lap of 2’02.013s until the end of the session, when some last-minute track action pushed him to tenth, 0.803s from the front.

The Mallorcan showed his eagerness to fight at the front in Sunday’s race as he was one of the first riders to head out on track in FP2. He immediately made his mark with the provisional third fastest time, a position he held for most of the session until the times dropped at the end. Lorenzo returned to the box after ten laps and was one of only a few riders that didn’t venture out on slicks in the final minutes of the session when a dry line had formed. He found himself in 16th place in the FP2, but finished the day tenth in the combined rankings.

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“This first day of practice went quite smoothly. Today was the first time riders got to ride on the new tarmac and try the modifications that were made to the circuit and their first experiences were quite positive on the grip that the new surface is providing. One aspect that we really have to take into consideration, especially due to the weather conditions, is that the new tarmac doesn’t dry as fast as the Phillip Island circuit, as we saw one week ago. Unfortunately, the conditions we had today, where the track has never been fully dry even in FP1, didn’t allow us to finalise the settings, but anyway it has been important to ride also in these mixed circumstances, because it looks like we might have similar conditions for the entire weekend. Based on the information we got today, we will try to prepare something for tomorrow’s free practice, regardless if it will be dry or wet.”

Valentino Rossi
5th / 2’01.611 / 33 laps

“This morning we were able to ride in the full dry, but anyway there were some wet patches that were very difficult and you have to stay very concentrated and careful because it’s quite dangerous. We hope for the next days we have some clear conditions, full dry or full wet. The first feeling is not so bad, but for sure after today’s rain the track needed too much time to dry out.”

Jorge Lorenzo
10th / 2’02.013 / 17 laps

“Today was a strange day with mixed conditions. In the morning we rode on the new asphalt for the first time and it seems grippy. We couldn’t stay with the quickest riders because at the last stint we put in the hardest tyres and I didn’t have enough time to improve the lap time. In the afternoon with the wet track it was complicated, because the asphalt started to dry up and finally we decided to stay in the garage. It’s difficult to draw conclusions from today.”

Tech3 pair power through day one in Malaysia

Monster Yamaha Tech3 team rider Bradley Smith began his round 17 campaign with a resolute display on the first day of action at the world famous Sepang International Circuit. The British star arrived in Malaysia after impressively concluding last Sunday’s Australian GP in 8th, despite an ongoing knee injury and he wasted no time in immediately launching into action in Free Practice One where the riders first sampled the recently resurfaced track. Here, Smith finished less than a second back from third and the encouraging performance left him fired up for the afternoon. However, a typical Malaysian downpour disturbed play and meant that the asphalt was wet when FP2 started. This did not deter Smith, who continued his work as he set his fastest time in the final moments of the session, which left him in 4th. The 25 year old’s personal best from FP1 sees him end the day in 14th, and the 2015 leading satellite rider now looks on to producing a determined ride tomorrow to claim a solid grid placement for Sunday’s race.

Meanwhile, Pol Espargaro endured the tricky Malaysian weather to complete day one three positions behind his teammate in the combined standings. The 2013 Moto2 World Champion got straight to work when the opening session commenced as he took the initial steps in setting up his MotoGP bike for the Grand Prix. He gradually improved as the shakedown continued, before he set his fastest time on his final lap of 16, which resulted in the Spaniard ending the practice three-tenths behind his Monster Yamaha Tech3 team partner. When FP2 kicked off, Espargaro courageously took to the track as he collected valuable data for a wet setup, with rain being a constant possibility in Malaysia. He braved the damp conditions to post his personal best on his 9th lap before he headed back to the pit box and decided sit out the rest of the session. Espargaro now hopes for a dry FP3 practice in order to up his pace and speed into the top 10 to directly qualify for the final Q2 shootout.

Bradley Smith
14th / 2’02.484 / 25 laps

“Overall, the first day was quite positive at Sepang. This morning, I felt pretty good and we used both options of front tyres that are available; a medium compound and a hard. This harder tyre was new for me and I haven’t used it this year so far, but it was good to complete some distance on it and I felt comfortable. I didn’t change the rear tyre because I wanted to put almost a full race distance on it for Sunday, however, maybe this wasn’t the best plan for today with the changeable weather. Yet, I always prefer to focus on my race setting, rather than putting in a fast lap on Friday, so now we have to hope for dry weather for FP3 tomorrow. This afternoon, the conditions were tricky and to be honest, completing too many laps with wet tyres didn’t make sense because there wasn’t a lot of water on the track. We didn’t need to risk anything so we waited and then in the final stages I went out and it was good to assess these conditions because there is a chance that we may have to experience this sort of weather again this weekend. Anyway, tomorrow, we hope that we can push inside of the top ten and then go straight through to Q2.”

Pol Espargaro
17th / 2’02.732 / 26 laps

“To be honest, it almost feels like we didn’t really ride today because the conditions and the weather made it tricky for us to evaluate our situation. This morning, the track was very dirty and there were also still some wet patches so we didn’t have much of an opportunity to work out how the bike runs here, or how we are doing in comparison to the other riders. The new asphalt seems to be grippy in the dry conditions even if there are a few areas that take some time to dry. However, with regards to the dirty surface itself, the issue is that it becomes tricky when setting up the bike because it’s hard to know if it’s the tyres, the setting or the unclean track that is limiting us. With the rain, it’s too much to expect the circuit to be a lot cleaner tomorrow, so it will be challenging. For the afternoon, it was one of those sessions that wasn’t wet or dry, it was somewhere in between and there was not a lot of reason to go out. We hope that tomorrow morning will be dry so that we can cut our time and then go through to QP2. This morning, unfortunately, we selected the wrong compound for the final minutes which prevented us from improving our lap as much as we wanted to and this could be an issue due to the weather, however, we will do our best to fight for a good qualifying position tomorrow.”