Suzuki lead Ducati, Honda and Yamaha on a super competitive opening day at Sepang
Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) topped the timesheets on Friday at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix after going quickest in FP2, but there are four factories in a tenth and a half on Day 1. Rins heads Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) on the combined times by just 0.089 after setting a 1:59.608, with Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) completing a top three covered by somewhat fitting 0.093 seconds at Sepang. Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) makes it four factories in the top four and four factories within just 0.159 seconds.
Despite the threat of rain throughout the day, the MotoGP™ riders were able to get two full dry sessions done and dusted in Malaysia, and it was the Suzuki leading the way as the chequered flag came out at the end of FP2. Rins was the man at the summit thanks to his late FP2 time, with Dovi failing to improve on his FP1 time in the afternoon session – P7 for the Italian in FP2. Marquez, meanwhile, finished the second session in P2, but the World Champion had an eventful day. In typical Marquez fashion, the number 93 had to save the front of his RC213V numerous times across the two sessions.
There were no such close shaves for fourth place overall and sixth fastest in FP2 Valentino Rossi though, as ‘The Doctor’ had a strong Friday to end the day so close to the top. Just behind him and fifth on the combined times was Jack Miller on board his Alma Pramac Racing Ducati, the Australian setting a quickest time of 1:59.771 to end FP2 in P3, and Miller was also the first rider to dip into the 1:59s in FP2. Meanwhile, Australian GP winner Maverick Viñales (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) completes the day P6 on the overall times, the Spaniard going fourth fastest in FP2 to end the day less than two tenths off P1.
Just 0.009 behind him at the end of Friday’s proceedings sits Danilo Petrucci (Alma Pramac Racing), P7 overall for the Italian thanks to his FP2 time, with Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) improving by over half a second in the second session to end Friday in P8. Completing the provisional automatic Q2 places were Andrea Iannone (Team Suzuki Ecstar) in P9 and Aprilia Racing Team Gresini’s Aleix Espargaro in P10 – the latter struggling with grip in the afternoon.
Returning from injury, Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) endured a tough opening day. The five-time World Champion finished bottom of the timesheets and over three seconds adrift of the fastest time, and will further assess his fitness on Saturday.
So it’s Alex Rins on fire on Friday in Sepang; a top turnaround after one of his bikes was on up in flames in pitlane on Thursday. The times are super close with 0.203 covering the top six, but FP3 gives the premier class riders the last chance to improve to see if they can cement an automatic place in Q2. Tune in for that at 10:55 local time (GMT +8), with qualifying beginning at 15:10 local time.