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Rossi Secures Front Row Start in Sepang

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Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi upped his pace to another level today at the Sepang International Circuit and took third on the grid for tomorrow’s race. Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo experienced problems on braking, but despite that still put in a solid effort and will start the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix from fourth position.

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP’s Valentino Rossi left it to the final session to secure a front row start for tomorrow’s race at the Sepang International Circuit. Team-mate Jorge Lorenzo had a challenging outing and will start the race from second row.

Rossi was a man on a mission this afternoon at the Malaysian circuit and didn’t waste a second of the tense 15-minute qualifying two session. His first flying lap of 2’00.310 put him in fourth position before being pushed back to fifth. He quickly returned to the pits with nine minutes to go for a quick stop and came back to the track a minute later, fully focused on the task ahead.

The Doctor was putting in the maximum effort to secure a good place on the grid and he dropped a 1’59.810 for fourth place, before coming in for another quick stop.

After his second visit to the box, Rossi was back on his way with more than two minutes remaining and timed his final stint to perfection. The Italian crossed the finish line in the final second before the flag came out to commence his final hot lap. Still holding fourth for a second row start, he put his head down once more to ride a superb third and fourth sector and clock a 1’59.726s which earned him third place.

It was a day with highs and lows for team-mate Lorenzo. The championship title chaser started the day by dipping under the 2’00 mark in the morning’s free practice with a time of 1’59.544s, but he had a minor slide down the track in the afternoon practice session.

Thankfully unhurt Lorenzo arrived at the Sepang qualifying session, opting for his usual three-stint qualifying strategy. He made sure he was one of the first riders for the 15-minute qualifying heat to be ensured of some clear space. He posted a 1’59.737s lap to take provisional second place and immediately returned to the pits with more than nine and a half minutes to go.

He returned to the track less than a minute later and, having been pushed back to third, felt fired up to set another hot lap. However, he was unable to improve on his time and came back into the box to switch bike.

With two minutes of the session remaining he put the hammer down for a final time, but again came just a bit short to further improve on his time and finished the day in fourth place.

Valentino Rossi
3rd / 1’59.726 / 8 laps

“It’s just the practice, so nothing is done, but it’s a very important first row. On the last lap I was able to improve my lap time a little bit and overtake Jorge. Starting from the first row will be very important, but winning the race is always difficult. Here with the heat and the tyres the race is even tougher. Anything can happen, but we are on the front row and this is important. Sepang is one of the toughest Grand Prix because it’s very hot, but a lot of qualifying sessions have been more difficult than today’s has been for me, because today I was competitive and I enjoyed it. I arrived at the qualifying ready with a good setting and pace, so I was able to push and already on the second tyre I was able to put in a 1’59s. I knew that I was able to do this, it was the target, but I was hoping for something a little bit more and on the last lap I was able to deliver thanks to good concentration and good grip from the bike, so I’m happy. Starting from the front row is always important, but here it’s a bit more important because I beat Jorge, but the race happens tomorrow and it will be difficult for everybody. We will try to be ready.”

Jorge Lorenzo
4th / 1’59.737 / 8 laps

“In free practice four and qualifying we had big problems with the brakes, when I arrived at turn four I couldn’t brake, the power of the brake arrived suddenly in the middle, but I wasn’t able to brake on the first part and couldn’t stop unless it was a very aggressive stop, that was the main problem this afternoon. In every braking section I’m losing too much and I was unable to recover in acceleration what I lost on braking. It was a pity to lose the front row, but I think that if we solve this problem, we can be competitive for the race.”

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“It was an exciting qualifying session today. Valentino did a great job to secure a front row for tomorrow. He has been working hard today to find the right setting and he dug deep in the final stages of the session. We are satisfied with his third position, which is a good place to start the race from. Jorge showed a strong pace throughout all the sessions. It’s a shame that he struggled with the braking and missed out on the front row, but we’ll continue to work tonight to sort out the final issues for the warm up and then we will be ready for the race tomorrow morning.”

Smith to lunge forward from the third row at Sepang

Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Bradley Smith will kick start his mission to finish as the leading satellite MotoGP bike in the penultimate round of the 2015 MotoGP season tomorrow from the third row of the grid. The Briton leapt on board his Yamaha YZR-M1 as the day began and quickly resumed his setup work with the team in FP3, whilst determined to lower his lap time further. Yet, the 24 year old finally completed the shootout in 12th, just over two tenths from the top ten, which meant that he would have to compete in Q1. Nevertheless, Smith remained resolute and met the opening qualifying 1 confident of progressing to the final practice. After rapidly getting up to speed, the Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider powered to a lap of 2’00.765 which saw him finish in second and able to comfortably pass through to QP2. When the session commenced, Smith went back out on track with a strong grid position his sole target. The Briton consistently improved and after powering onwards, he sped to a top time of 2’00.652 on his final lap out of seven which saw him clinch 9th position. For tomorrow’s race, Smith aims to fight through the field and end what will be a challenging Grand Prix at the front of the satellite MotoGP bike battle.

Meanwhile, Pol Espargaro will begin the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix from the fourth row of the grid and confidently seeks to fight his way to a top result aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1. The young Spaniard charged forward from the word go as soon as FP3 started and he continued his setup work in preparation for the race. After undertaking a total of 17 laps, Espargaro’s best time of 2’00.709 saw him finish in 10th and able to pass directly through to the QP2 session. Here, the 2013 Moto2 World Champion keenly began his qualifying quest as he sought to seize a solid grid position for the 20 lap sprint. As the clock counted down, Espargaro laid down a lap of 2’00.794 on his 5th but carried on his pace as he aimed to move further up the grid. However, despite his best efforts, this lap was his best as the session drew to a close and saw him only 0.142 from his teammate. The 24 year old now fully intends to undertake a rocket start and then he will then seek to charge through the field in order to fight as close as possible to the factory MotoGP bikes in the 17th round battle tomorrow.”

Bradley Smith
9th / 2’00.652 / 7 laps

“I have to say that today as a whole went much better than yesterday and the end result is quite satisfying. The team worked really hard last night to give me a good bike that I felt much more confident with, so we have to say that we definitely made some significant steps forward as we found the best direction to head towards for this circuit. Of course, running in QP1 was never part of the plan, but actually I am pleased that I did as it gave us a bit more time to make some final adjustments before Qualifying 2. In terms of lap times, we partly closed the gap to the Factory Yamaha riders which is a real positive. The pole time was very quick today and for sure, it was out of reach for me, yet when we compare our best lap to the other riders on the same bike, we were close enough. The most significant aspect about today’s result is that I will start on the same row of the grid as Dovizioso, who is my championship rival which means that I have a good chance of passing him on the run down to the turn one. We need to work a bit more on my rhythm in warm up, but I am confident about the race now as we definitely went in the right direction today. With a good start tomorrow, I am confident that I can get back into a position I want to be in and I will fight as much as possible in the 20 lap battle.”

Pol Espargaro
12th / 2’00.794 / 7 laps

“It was a disappointing qualifying session and even though we didn’t expect to be in the fight for the pole position, I felt that after FP4, we could have been a bit faster. However, our strategy as well as my feeling on the bike were not the best and the fact that I was only a few tenths faster than in FP3, shows that our potential was higher compared to what we achieved. Moreover, it was quite frustrating to ride my last lap behind Valentino and Ianonne, because I realised that there was a big difference between my bike and theirs, mainly in terms of power and acceleration. It’s really difficult to handle and also to accept as my ambitions are much higher than where we are at the moment, so I feel really frustrated. Anyway, we need to be positive and I can definitely say that we made a step forward at the end of FP3. Also later on in FP4, when we evaluated some different settings, I believe that we found something which increased my level of performance. With regards to tomorrow, I honestly don’t know what to expect. It will clearly be a really demanding race because we are experiencing one of the hardest conditions of my GP career but I will, of course, give my 100 percent.”

Seventh row for Baz and Elias at Sepang

The qualifying session ended with both Forward Racing riders in the seventh row at Sepang circuit that tomorrow will host the Grand Prix of Malaysia. Loris Baz and Toni Elias will start respectively from the 20th and 21st place on the grid.

After having struggled to find the right feeling with his Yamaha Forward in the first day of free practice, Baz significantly improved today his lap time in the first session closing the gap with the other Open guys. In qualifying, he did not find the right grip on the rear and with a best lap of 2’01.862, he will start from the 20th place.

A positive step forward has also been made by Toni Elias who improved his best time in the morning session by more than a second. The Spaniard, who will start alongside his team-mate

Loris Baz
20th / 2’01.862 / 6 laps

“In qualifying I struggled a lot to find the right grip with the new tyres and I could not push as I wanted. Compared to yesterday I tried some new positive solutions and I’m positive for the race. I will start far from my direct opponent, but I can do a great recovery.”

Toni Elias
21st / 2’02.415 / 6 laps

“I expected more from this qualifying, but I suffered to find the right feeling with the tyres. I had no grip, especially in the first laps when the tyre was new. The pace is good for the race and my goal is to do a good start and then fight with the other Open bikes. We made a good step forward and I’m confident for the race.”

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