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A 1:58.576 in MotoGP™ FP2 saw Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) smash his FP1 lap record as the Frenchman sits 0.534 clear on Day 1 at the Shell Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix. His nearest challenge remains teammate Franco Morbidelli with Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) sitting P3, but the Italian is 0.630 off Quartararo’s blistering pace.
Friday saw the premier class get two valuable fully dry sessions under their belt ahead of a weekend forecast of wet weather, so, as is often the case, FP2 was vital in terms of a provisional automatic Q2 place. But could anyone get the better of FP1 pacesetter Quartararo? In the early stages of FP2, no one was penetrating the top 10 from FP1 as riders focused on getting some mileage on different Michelin tyre specs. LCR Honda Idemitsu’s Johann Zarco was an early improver in the afternoon though, the Frenchman moved himself up to P12, while fellow Honda man Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) - after a bike issue in FP1 - placed himself at the top of the FP2 time screens.
Michelin bring hardest tyre of year to tackle Sepang heat
20 minutes passed by as we saw no movement in the top 10 on the combined standings, but FP2 was hotly contested – 0.1 splitting the top six with 15 minutes to go. After finishing P3 in the opening session, Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP’s Maverick Viñales then set the first sub-two-minute time with 10 minutes remaining. However, changes to the combined times were forthcoming – and it was the Petronas duo who started sending the timing screens red. First, Morbidelli went fastest in FP2 but couldn’t quite beat his time from FP1. It was a different story on the number 20 machine though as a Rookie of the Year was flying. An unbelievable lap was about to be posted by Quartararo as the 20-year-old went half a second under his own lap record to set Sepang alight.
It was an astonishing lap from the Frenchman who had moved the goalposts well out of reach. Meanwhile, two Italians were improving. Dovizioso and Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) both set personal best times on their final flying laps to claim P3 and P5 respectively at the end of Day 1, with Viñales’ FP1 time seeing him claim P4 ahead of his teammate – all four YZR-M1s sitting inside the top five. Marquez didn’t head out on fresh soft Michelin rubber at the end of the session and didn’t improve on his morning time as the number 93 nestles himself into P6. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar), another rider who set his fastest time in FP1, is just 0.029 off Marquez in P7 – the Spaniard is the last rider to get within a second of Quartararo so far in Sepang. Closing out what could be a pivotal top 10 is Jack Miller (Pramac Racing), Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol). The British rider had been displaced by Francesco Bagnaia (Pramac Racing) in the dying seconds of FP2, before improving on his final lap to leapfrog back past the Italian rookie.
New weekend, same Marquez!
Zarco and Andrea Iannone (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) crashed in FP2 – riders ok.
Lap record in FP1, even faster in FP2. Day 1 at Petronas Yamaha SRT’s home round belonged to Quartararo as Morbidelli completes a dream 1-2 start to their weekend in Malaysia. Eyes to the sky for FP3? You bet! The weather remains a huge question mark ahead of qualifying day, so make sure you don’t miss any of Saturday’s action, starting with FP3 at 10:50 local time (GMT+8).
1. Fabio Quartararo (Petronas Yamaha SRT) – 1:58.576
2. Franco Morbidelli (Petronas Yamaha SRT) + 0.534
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) + 0.630
4. Maverick Viñales (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.642
5. Valentino Rossi (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP) + 0.708
6. Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) + 0.941
7. Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) + 0.970
8. Jack Miller (Pramac Racing) + 1.017
9. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) + 1.131
10. Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda Castrol) + 1.135
MotoGP™ FP1 at the Malaysian GP: Round 17 is GO!
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