MotoGP riders struggled with grip on a very slick Sepang circuit during Free Practice 1 on Friday, but in the end it was Fiat Yamaha M1 rider Valentino Rossi who topped the timesheets, the Italian posting a 2:02.724.
Rossi has much luck at Sepang, winning five times and sealing off his 2009 World Championship title at the circuit which is hosting the Shell Advance Malaysian Grand Prix, Round 15 of the 2010 MotoGP Championship
Valentino Rossi says: “It’s been another good start for us here and we found a good setting straight away. I am feeling very comfortable on the bike and so far my shoulder is okay here.”
“The track is quite dirty but that will get better and I love riding at this track, it’s one of my favourites and I am always happy to be on the bike here. We are confident that we will be able to make some more improvements tomorrow and be in good shape to try for the front row tomorrow afternoon.”
The man only 0.109 seconds behind Rossi, Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso, lead most of FP1, but was beat out by Rossi in the end. Dovi is coming off his best finish of the year, second at Motegi, and also his first premium-class pole.
Andrea Dovizioso says: “I’m happy with this first session at Sepang because we were fast from the very beginning of the practice period. Today the conditions were really extreme in terms of the heat – even more than we’re accustomed to here – so physically it was very hard. We started from a good base today however.”
“We will continue work on set-up improvements and adjustments to the electronics to increase the stability at the front end under braking. But I think we have found the limit of the tires in these conditions, so I will also try to adapt my riding style to make further improvements to the lap time tomorrow. Overall we made a good start today.”
Dovi’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, will not be competing at Sepang. The Spaniard is recovering from surgery to his collarbone, which he broke at Friday practice last week for the Japanese Grand Prix in Motegi. Pedrosa, who was the only rider capable of catching Jorge Lorenzo for the 2010 title, is expected to return at Phillip Island in Australia.
Lorenzo was the final rider to post under the 2:03 mark, the Fiat Yamaha rider riding his M1 to a 2:02.898. If Lorenzo finishes ninth or higher this weekend, he will clench the world championship.
Jorge Lorenzo says: “Today conditions were quite difficult, with the high temperatures and a dirty track. I’m happy though because I felt good on the bike, I rode fast and I was close to the first position. We rode with the old engine again today but maybe we will try the new one tomorrow. We need to work on the fourth sector, which is where we’re losing time at the moment, so tomorrow we will concentrate on that and try to improve further.”
The Australian who won the last two rounds (Motegi, Aragon) was fourth fastest, posting a time of 0.436 of a second on his Ducati Team. He went down on Turn 4, but was able to remount his Ducati GP10 and finish practice session.
The fifth quickest time was set by the rookie Alvaro Bautista on the Rizla Suzuki GSVR, and he was followed on the time sheets by Monster Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards. Finishing out the top 10 fastest riders were Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team), Aleix Espargaró (Pramac Racing), Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda).
2011 Sepang MotoGP Friday Combined Free Practice Times:
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team, 2’02.724
2. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda Team, 2’02.833
3. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team, 2’02.898
4. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team, 2’03.160
5. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, 2’03.338
6. Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 2’03.393
7. Marco Melandri (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini, 2’03.438
8. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Pramac Green Team, 2’03.471
9. Ben Spies (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 2’03.477
10. Randy de Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP, 2’03.539
11. Marco Simoncelli (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini, 2’03.680
12. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, 2’03.717
13. Hector Barbera (SPA) Aspar Team, 2’03.760
14. Hiroshi Aoyama (JPN) Interwetten-Honda MotoGP, 2’03.769
15. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team, 2’03.947
16. Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Green Team, 2’04.023