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Repsol Honda rider just 0.017 ahead of Zarco – with Dovizioso third and Marquez seventh
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) topped an incredible qualifying shootout at Sepang International Circuit, with the front row split by only 0.024 seconds and the Little Samurai coming out on top. Pedrosa, the pole record holder, put in a number of quick laps towards the end and stole it on his final attempt to take his eleventh front row and fourth pole at the venue. Johann Zarco (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) was second, top Independent Team rider and top Yamaha, ahead of the first of the title challengers: Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team).
Dovizioso was only 0.024 seconds off pole and was the man provisionally set to take it until the final few seconds, but the Italian holds the cards after key rival and points leader Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) had a more difficult session and will line up seventh – on the third row. Marquez crashed on his first flier, taking a tumble at Turn 15 but able to get the bike going and head down pitlane, and was unable to threaten once back out on track. It’s only the second time ever in the premier class the reigning Champion has failed to qualify in the top six.
The second row is headed by Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) after the first man into the 1:59s on Saturday morning was able to get the better of teammate Maverick Viñales, with the Spaniard just 0.040 off the veteran Italian and lining up in fifth. Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team) completes an all-star second row, again within a tenth of the man ahead of him.
Behind Marquez is Alex Rins (Team Suzuki Ecstar) – the first of the Q2 graduates – who just beat teammate Andrea Iannone, with Cal Crutchlow (LCR Honda) completing the top ten after a crash.
Jack Miller (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) lines up P11, with Pol Espargaro (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing) in twelfth and once again keeping the Austrian manufacturer in Q2 as their impressive form continues. Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) and teammate Scott Redding line up in thirteenth and fourteenth, with Alvaro Bautista (Pull&Bear Aspar Team) rounding out the fastest fifteen.
Now it’s race day – with Dovizioso ready for a last stand off the front row, and Marquez looking to pick his way through from seventh as he faces his first chance at the crown.
First and second row starts for Ducati Team riders at Sepang. Andrea Dovizioso third and Jorge Lorenzo sixth in qualifying for the Shell Malaysia Grand Prix
Andrea Dovizioso will start the Malaysian Grand Prix, the penultimate round of the 2017 MotoGP World Championship which gets underway at 15.00 local time (08.00 CET) on Sunday, from the front row of the grid at the Sepang International Circuit. The Italian rider set third-quickest time in Q2, after finishing FP3, which determined which riders would go through to the all-important second qualifying session, in fourth place.
It will be a second row start on the other hand for Jorge Lorenzo, who was sixth quickest in the afternoon’s Q2 session after finishing the morning’s FP3 run in fifth place.
All today’s track action took place in perfect weather conditions, with clear skies but scorching hot temperatures, which in qualifying reached 34° C (air), 47° (track) and 49% humidity.
Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team #04) – 1’59.236 (3rd)
“The front row was our target and we achieved it today, but I’m even happier about our speed, which is fundamental this weekend. If you don’t have a good pace, it’s no good thinking about race strategies and we were fast in all the conditions, especially in the dry and with used tyres like this afternoon in FP4. In qualifying I did an almost perfect lap, and this gave me an immense satisfaction! We are ready for tomorrow, in any weather conditions: the bike is going really well, we are quick and this is the most important thing, because our aim is to fight for the win.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Ducati Team #99) – 1’59.622 (6th)
“It was a positive day, even though about four tenths were missing for me to get onto the front row. In qualifying I lapped with consistent times but I was missing a ‘demon’ lap to be able to fight for the pole position. However I’m happy, because we improved the bike a lot during the weekend and I also managed to improve my riding style, especially under braking. Tomorrow we can stay in the leading group and if we have a good pace, fight for an important result.”
Sepang (Malaysia), 28th October 2017
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP‘s Valentino Rossi and Maverick Viñales enjoyed a full-on second day of MotoGP action at the Sepang International Circuit. Today in FP3 and FP4 they continued working on their YZR-M1s in dry conditions. After they both secured places in the Q2 session, the pair went on to set some seriously impressive lap times, under the 2’00s-mark, to secure fourth and fifth place respectively on the grid for tomorrow‘s Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix.
Having set the fastest time in FP3 and the combined free practice timesheets, Rossi was motivated to do his passionate Malaysian fans proud again in Q2 and quickly headed towards the pit lane exit, in the midst of the rider field. His first flying lap put him in seventh place and he briefly moved up to fifth on his next attempt, but was pushed back to eighth as he made his way back to the pit box.
With four minutes on the clock the Doctor was back for a second run at the 5.5 km long circuit. He had time for two more tries and was determined to make the most of them. He set a 1‘59.498s to take over pole briefly, but late efforts from his rivals after the flag came out relegated him to fourth position, 0.286s from first. Unable to improve on his last lap, the Italian will start tomorrow‘s race from the second row of the grid.
Viñales approached the Q2 session with a different tactic than his teammate. Despite the fact that the lengthy track allows little time for multiple hot laps, he waited until most of the other riders had left pit lane before stepping aboard his Yamaha. Enjoying some clear space, his first attempt saw him settle into fifth position and he quickly followed this up with a provisional front row result, posting a 1‘59.673s for second place.
The Spaniard made a quick pit stop with a little less than seven minutes remaining and was ready to put his head down again two minutes later, as the times dropped. He wasn‘t able to improve on his next attempt, but turned up the heat on his final flying lap and set a 1’59.538s to move up from fifth to third. However, a last-minute flurry of activity after the chequered flag was already out, saw him end the session in fifth place, 0.326s from the front. Tomorrow he will line up on the second row of the starting grid, right beside his teammate.
Keen-eyed spectators might have noticed a difference in the livery of the bikes today. The Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders were showing off the orange ENEOS branding on the lower cowling, to highlight the long-standing partnership between Yamaha and JXTG Nippon Oil & Energy (the brand owner of ENEOS), that started in 2012.
Today was quite full-on for the team, in order for us to make another step concerning the dry set-up of the bike. It wasn‘t easy, because it was another hot day at the Sepang track, which makes riding three sessions in total a real challenge, but our riders came through. Valentino and Maverick were finally quite comfortable with their bikes and were able to push hard. Vale had already shown he’s feeling good on the dry when he set the fastest time in FP3. His pace has been very fast in all of today‘s sessions and his fourth position on the grid is not a bad result. Maverick wasn‘t quite as comfortable in this morning‘s session, but he and his crew could improve his feeling just in time for the qualifying. He’ll also be on the second row of the grid, which is a good starting point. Today we were able to compare almost all the tyre choices and we have a bit of an idea about which tyres both riders will use in tomorrow‘s race. We‘ll continue to work tonight to see if we can find a way to fine-tune the balance of the bikes and find some extra time in some parts of the track. Here the weather can play a big role in the outcome of the race, so we‘ll have to adapt to whatever situation comes our way.
In general it was a good day, because already from this morning I felt good with the bike. Into qualifying we were still working, because the level of the top five or six riders was very close, it was very balanced, we‘re all the same. I tried to push, my lap was good, I rode well. The lap time was OK, I saw P1 at that moment, but after that the others improved. Starting from P4 is a good position, but we have to work on the balance of the bike because I‘m not fast enough yet in some places. Like always, the tyre decision and the weather conditions will be very important tomorrow. For me it‘s still open which tyre to use on the front and for the rear, we have to decide if we go with the medium or the hard and also the combination between the two, it depends. First of all, I hope for good weather tomorrow, so we can try to race with the slicks.
Today‘s qualifying was very close, all the riders‘ times were very close together. We are 0.3s from first and I‘m happy. In FP3 I didn‘t feel so well, but then we made some changes on the bike in FP4 and I felt good again. I think that for tomorrow we still have some room for improvement and that‘s very important. I feel really good and I think I have a clear idea on which tyre I’ll use for the race. I‘m especially happy because there were many races where throughout the weekend we didn‘t make good steps forward, but here we made great progress. We have to be very intelligent about tomorrow‘s race, first of all about deciding on the tyres. We have to choose the best option for our bike. In the end I think we have the package, I‘m good on the brakes and feel strong there compared to the other riders, so let‘s see if we can get the job done tomorrow.
SIXTH ROW FOR LOWES IN QUALIFYING AT SEPANG
Sam Lowes will start from the sixth row on the starting grid in the GP of Malaysia tomorrow. The English rider on Aprilia Racing Team Gresini did a time of 2’01.207 in qualifying, an improvement of 3 tenths from his times in FP3.
After demonstrating good confidence on the wet asphalt, Lowes continued working to achieve a good feeling in the dry. Given the climate of the Malaysian track, the weather is one of the key variables to keep an eye on for the race. The English rookie demonstrated consistent performance with used tyres; a response that lets him set his sights on the points zone.
“We worked a lot again today on the RS-GP, especially in terms of balance, because this morning I did not have a good feeling. We managed to take our pace to a good level. My performance with very used tyres is about a half a second from my best time and I think that in the dry we will be able to use the soft. In qualifying I made a few small mistakes. I wasn’t able to turn an ideal lap which would have placed me farther forward on the grid. In any case, we prepared well for the race, so whether it is held in the dry or in the wet, we have the potential to battle for points.”
Massive improvement puts Red Bull KTM MotoGP team again in top 12 at Malaysian GP
QUALIFYING 17th Rd. MotoGP 2017 – Sepang International Circuit (MAL)
Qualifying for the Malaysian MotoGP race has been another highlight in the debut year for the Red Bull KTM MotoGP Factory Racing team as once more a KTM RC16 advanced from Q1 to Q2 with Pol Espargaro searing around the Sepang International Circuit to start from 12th position. The Spaniard said it was one of his best laps ever as he found an improvement of 1.1 seconds from the test earlier in the year to only be a fraction away from a magic sub 2 minute lap of Sepang.
Moto2 saw a front row start for KTM for the second weekend on the bounce as Miguel Oliviera took KTM to second place meaning only once this year has he been outside the top ten in qualifying.
In Moto3, Bo Bendsneyder heads the second row of the grid with his Red Bull KTM Ajo and is looking forward to the race tomorrow as he went well he last year with 3rd in he Grand Prix.
Sepang has happy memories for KTM as it was here in 2004 that the Austrian manufacturer won its first Grand Prix, the first of the 74 Grands Prix that KTM have now won in 125cc, 250cc, Moto3 and now Moto2.
Scorching temperatures once more were order of the Malaysian MotoGP weekend as the towards the end of qualifying track temperatures were 55 degrees celcius, the hottest of the year, but this did nothing to quell the speed of the KTM RC16 for its qualifying debut at Sepang. One of the best laps ever from Pol Espargaro meant KTM once more leapt from Q1 to Q2 even though he suffered a high speed crash on his last run. He was back in the garage in a matter of minutes before returning to the track for one final run in Q2 but unfortunately couldn’t improve so will start from 12th. His Q1 time was good enough for a spot knocking on the door of another top 10 start. For KTM it is their tenth top 12 grid spot during their debut season in MotoGP.
Team mate Bradley Smith also improved from his pre-season time, by 0.7 seconds, and will start 16th, the Birt losing a little time at the last corner of his fastest lap but confident he can find that time in tomorrow’s race.
All MotoGP teams did a three day test here in early February but since then the RC16 has been developed with many new parts so the 1.14 second improvement in lap time today is on going proof of the commitment of the KTM Motorsport factory in Austria.
Espargaro: “I think here for me it’s not easy here as I’ve struggled quite a lot but today I think I’ve done one of my best laps ever. The bike has improved so much as I took 1.1 seconds off my lap time from the test again going forward to Q2. The crash was very unlucky as I think I could have done a 1m 59s which would’ve been massive for the guys working so hard on this project as it proves the bike is getting better and better. In fact, looking at the ideal time of my best sectors it was a 1m 59.9 so that’s a massive step we’ve made. Physically I’m OK but in these conditions everything is so much harder so I’m lucky not to have any pain. The race is tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it rain or shine.”
Smith: “First and foremost I’m frustrated not to go forward to Q2 as things have gone so well over the last two weekends so to miss out on that was a little annoying as a made a slight mistake at the last corner. Today didn’t quite give me the feeling for one lap but fair play to the guys at the front as a 2m 0.1sec to go through to Q2 is no clowning around so I’m happy with what I was able to do. We’ve made steps forward in FP4 for race pace but this of all tracks is a trade off of braking and also the flowing corners too.”
Sebastian Risse (Technical Director MotoGP): “It wasn’t an easy day but it was a good day with Pol to get through to Q2: A great achievement. This was impressive as we had some problems with set up so it wasn’t an easy weekend by any means but still the final result is great for the team. When we look back at the 2017 test in February it is a big difference and very satisfying to see how the bike has developed so we shall now see how the bike will be when we come back here in February 2018 because that’s not so far away from now. That will be a ‘different bike’ again so I’m curious to see that progress too. Meanwhile, we have the race tomorrow so I mustn’t get ahead of myself.”
LCR Honda rider Cal Crutchlow will start the Malaysian Grand Prix from tenth position on the grid. With conditions remaining dry at the Sepang International Circuit on Saturday, the Briton looked well placed to secure a spot towards the front of the field, but suffered a fall during qualifying which ensured he had to settle for a spot on the fourth row for the penultimate round of the MotoGP World Championship.
Having posting the sixth fastest time on a damp first day in Malaysia aboard his Castrol branded RCV, Crutchlow again impressed during FP3 as he finished in seventh to secure his place in Q2. However, an untimely fall ended his hopes of pushing for a place on the front row in a session which saw fellow Honda rider Dani Pedrosa claim pole position for Sunday’s race.
Cal Crutchlow – 10th
(2’00.181 – lap 3 of 5)
“Today was a lot better day in the dryer conditions, I feel confident and good with the bike. I think we were set for a very good qualifying lap, maybe on the front row, but I made a mistake in turn seven when pushing for the best possible lap time. I lost the front tyre which was a lot better for braking, but not so good for turning.
“I’m disappointed to be tenth on the grid, but we made fifth position last week from tenth on the grid so we have to stay positive and see what we can do tomorrow in the long race of Malaysia.”
In baking hot conditions Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller has qualified 11th on the grid for Sunday’s Malaysian Grand Prix.
Miller’s fourth row start comes on the back of a brilliant seventh place finish in his home race at Phillip Island just six days ago.
The gritty Australian continues to ride with a plate and eight screws in his fractured right leg, an injury suffered in a training accident four weeks ago.
Miller took his place in the all-important Q2 session with the sixth fastest lap time in the morning FP3 session.
However he could not repeat that sizzling performance for a single lap time attack in afternoon qualifying when track temperatures soared to 48 degrees.
More importantly Miller has posted a string of fast and consistent laps aboard his Honda RC213V in race trim, which points to a strong surge for a top ten finish in the 20-lap race.
Miller’s Spanish teammate Tito Rabat will start from 19th on the seventh row of the grid after posting a fastest lap of 2’01.228 in the Q1 session.
This was Rabat’s fastest lap of the weekend so far after struggling with his pace in the mixed weather conditions of Friday practice.
The Malaysian Grand Prix is round 17 of the MotoGP World Championship.
Jack Miller: 11th – 2’00.326
“We made some changes to the bike for qualifying but it wasn’t perfect and I did a faster time in FP3 this morning. I know the race pace is there, but it is a pity to miss out on doing a faster flying lap for a better spot on the grid. But starting 11th will do me nicely for the race, I’m looking forward to it.”
Tito Rabat: 19th – 2’01.228
“Today was very difficult and to be honest I am very disappointed with my performance, I tried 100% but this was the best I could do. All I can do now is try to find a way to be faster and do a strong race tomorrow and score some points.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“A good weekend so far for Jack although he struggled a little more than I expected in qualifying. Importantly Jack has a very good race pace and even though he is 11th on the grid I think he can aim for a strong result. So far Sepang has been a disaster for Tito and even though he tries 100% it is not easy for him to control his emotions when things are like this but I know he will put in a big effort for the race tomorrow.”