Dani Pedrosa kept up his MotoGP momentum at Sepang on Friday. Dani Pedrosa kept up his MotoGP momentum at Sepang on Friday. Photo courtesy motogp.com

Hondas set Malaysia practice pace

Written by  on Friday, 19 October 2012 10:00

Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa topped the timesheets on the opening day of the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix in Sepang on Friday by setting the fastest lap of the day in the dry morning practice.

The afternoon session was hit with heavy rain to begin with, after which the sun slowly dried out the track. It was however not enough to replicate the morning’s conditions, with many of the top riders not opting to set a quick time. And despite Avintia Blusens’ Iván Silva setting the fastest lap of the afternoon in the high 2.10s, it was Pedrosa’s pace in the mid 2.01s in the morning that gave the best indication of the pace to come this weekend.

"We've been lucky to have the first practice in the dry to begin setting up the bike for the race because as we've seen in the last few days sooner or later it rains here,” Pedrosa observed. “The track was a little dirty in the morning and the grip level quite poor, but the lap times were not so bad and the conditions will improve throughout the weekend.

“In the morning I had a lot of vibration in the rear, which we think was a problem with the wheel balance. We will have to make good use of track time tomorrow morning to prepare the bike for qualifying and the race.”

The Spaniard’s teammate Casey Stoner was a much-improved figure on the first day, finishing just marginally behind in second. He, like Pedrosa, did also not set a time in the afternoon, not wishing to risk further injury.

"I definitely feel more comfortable here than I did in Japan,” Stoner admitted. “I'm not sure if this is time on the bike or the fact that this track isn't quite so demanding on my right leg. The circuit goes to the right a lot, but there aren't so many slow corners that I need to pick the bike up from and I'm getting a better feeling here so the lap times came easier.

“We still have quite a bit of work to do and I don't think we are anywhere near the pace that we need to be but the first session went very well and hopefully we can continue in this way for the remainder of the weekend.”

Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo brought his machine home in third, yet was over three tenths off the top, and will be hoping for a further dry run and an increase in pace to match the Repsol Hondas over the weekend.

"This morning was great,” the championship leader said. “From the beginning I was competitive and more or less at the same pace as Dani and Casey. Casey especially is much stronger than he was in Japan. This afternoon unfortunately we couldn’t practice because of the weather.

“We need to improve the behaviour of the bike in acceleration for tomorrow, it’s a little nervous so we need to make it a little easier." 

A further three tenths back was Andrea Dovizioso on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 satellite machine, who looks set to have another momentous battle with his teammate Cal Crutchlow, who ended the day marginally behind in fifth.

He finished ahead of Yamaha’s Ben Spies, with the American still seeking that extra sliver of pace to get past the Monster Yamaha duo.

LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl made a solid start to the weekend in seventh, just under a second off the top, yet also sat out the second free practice, stating that very little was to be gained from the mixed conditions.

Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden ended the day in eighth, and did look like he was preparing his bike for the wet briefly in FP2, though did not persist with the number of dry patches on track.

San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista would have been disappointed with his first outing in ninth, his final position of the day, however he did lap consistently fast when the track was at its wettest, leading the way for some time.

Pramac Racing Team’s Héctor Barberá’s day saw him finish 10th, while Ducati’s Valentino Rossi finished in 11th place. Rossi was one of the riders who chose to destroy a pair of wet tires in the afternoon on a drying track, much to the delight of the local fans.

In the first Moto2 free practice session in Sepang Tuenti Movil HP 40’s Pol Espargaró led the way in front of Bradley Smith and Marc Márquez.

The Moto2 grid was greeted with a dry track but warm and humid conditions, in which Espargaró set the quickest time of the morning with a 2:08.015. Tech 3 Racing’s Smith, who since Japan seems to have found that little something extra, left it late to jump up the timesheets and present himself as a podium contender this weekend. Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol’s Márquez was lapping consistently fast in the session, finishing just over three-tenths off the top.

In a Moto2 afternoon practice session hit with rain early on Petronas Raceline Malaysia’s wildcard Hafizh Syahrin made use of the short dry time to go top ahead of Axel Pons and Dominique Aegerter.

The combined timesheets saw none of the riders improve on their morning times, meaning it was Espargaró who stayed on top ahead of Smith and Márquez.

In the second Moto3 free practice session that was cut short that was cut short by rain it was Mapfre Aspar Team Moto3’s Jonas Folger who once again topped the timesheets ahead of Sandro Cortese and Zulfahmi Khairuddin.

Folger was on blistering form as he set the fastest time of the day with a 2:15.038, ousting Red Bull KTM Ajo’s Sandro Cortese into second by over two tenths.

--From motogp.com

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John Hopkins

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