#MalaysianGP Sepang, Friday roundup: MotoGP, Moto2, Moto3
It’s advantage Alex Marquez (Gresini Racing MotoGP™) after the opening day of action at the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia. The Spaniard was looking strong from the off and set a scintillating 1:57.823 in his late Practice time attack to take the top spot after falling just short of the all-time lap record. Marquez’s pace saw him deny title contender Jorge Martin (Prima Pramac Racing) a Friday clean-sweep. The ‘Martinator’ topped Practice 1 but was 0.174s back from his compatriot during the Friday afternoon time attack battle. Jack Miller (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), meanwhile, enjoyed a positive return to form as the Aussie had the bit between his teeth in Practice to take the final spot inside the top three.
A mad rush in Malaysia
With Friday afternoon’s Practice session deciding who goes through to Q2, the riders spent the majority of the session working on their race packages before engaging in full time-attack mode.
With rain clouds looming the riders put on the soft rubber with twenty minutes remaining and the hot laps came flying in. It was Alex Marquez who led the way after the first lot of time attacks. The session then quieted down as the clock ticked past the 10-minute mark, but it wasn’t over yet!
The red sectors came flying in once again and it was time for fireworks in the final three minutes of the session. Red sectors came in from Maverick Viñales (Aprilia Racing), Brad Binder (Red Bull KTM Factory Racing), Miller, and Alex Marquez until Martin moved the goalposts with the first 1:57 of the weekend. Alex Marquez still had plenty left in his back pocket however and the Spaniard quickly responded to retake the top spot ahead of Martin and Miller.
Fine margins make the difference…
Next up on the timesheets was Binder. The South African threatened the top spots throughout and finished the session just behind his teammate in P4, with Viñales just 0.005s behind him in 5th. Luca Marini (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) was another 0.022s back as he took a solid P6.
It was a positive day in the Yamaha camp as both riders showed glimpses of promise during Friday’s running. Fabio Quartararo (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™) was one of five riders in the 1:58.3 club as he kept himself in contention in P7 ahead of his 2022 title rival Francesco Bagnaia (Ducati Lenovo Team), as the World Championship leader bagged a very important Q2 spot in P8.
Marco Bezzecchi (Mooney VR46 Racing Team) also showed decent potential in Sepang. The Italian picked up P9 ahead of Johann Zarco (Prima Pramac Racing), the Frenchman claiming the final automatic Q2 spot in P10.
Q1 is set to be a tense affair as always with Franco Morbidelli (Monster Energy Yamaha MotoGP™ being the first rider to miss out on Q2.
The Yamaha rider will have to battle it out with his compatriots Enea Bastianini (Ducati Lenovo Team) and Fabio Di Giannantonio (Gresini Racing MotoGP™), as well as both factory Honda and GASGAS Tech3 riders.
Ai Ogura (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) is the rider to beat after the opening day of the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia. Ogura’s 2:06.093 came from a late Practice 2 charge where the Team Asia rider became the only competitor to beat Fermin Aldeguer‘s (Beta Tools SpeedUp) Practice 1 lap time. The latter topped Practice 1 with his 2:06.183, a time that held firm to consolidate 2nd place on the combined timings, as Aron Canet (Pons Wegow Los40) made his presence known after his Practice 2 time attack saw the Spaniard sit just 0.100s back from the top spot in P3.
Jake Dixon (Inde GASGAS Aspar Team) is also looking strong around the Sepang International Circuit. The Brit’s personal best times from P1 and P2 were within 0.003s of each other with his P1 time seeing him just miss out on the top three by 0.050s. Championship leader Pedro Acosta (Red Bull KTM Ajo) rounded out the top five as he made positive steps forward in the afternoon to finish just ahead of Marcos Ramirez (OnlyFans American Racing) and Sergio Garcia (Pons Wegow Los40). Acosta can wrap up the title this weekend if he finishes in the top four regardless of where Tony Arbolino (Elf Marc VDS Racing Team) ends the Malaysian GP, and the Italian was P19 on Day 1.
Dennis Foggia (Italtrans Racing Team) put in an impressive performance to finish the day in 8th place overall. The Italian’s teammate Joe Roberts finished just behind him in P9 with Albert Arenas (Red Bull KTM Ajo) rounding out the top 10.
Championship leader Jaume Masia (Leopard Racing) started his weekend at the PETRONAS Grand Prix of Malaysia as he means to go on as the Spaniard’s 2:12.065 saw him top the pile on Day 1. Deniz Öncü (Red Bull KTM Ajo) was looking strong from the off as well and was closest to Masia in P2, looking to keep his title hopes alive. Taiyo Furusato (Honda Team Asia), fresh from a maiden podium, also took well to the Petronas Sepang International Circuit and made a big step in Practice 2 to put himself into the top three on combined timings.
Buriram winner and Championship contender David Alonso (Gaviota GASGAS Aspar Team) had another strong showing as the rookie found himself just 0.037s away from the top three in P4. Matteo Bertelle (Rivacvold Snipars Team) made it three Hondas in the top five as the Italian rounded out that top five ahead of title challenger Daniel Holgado (Red Bull KTM Tech3).
The returning Romano Fenati (Rivacold Snipers Team) looked strong in Practice 1 and ended the day 7th overall ahead of title contender Ayumu Sasaki (Liqui Moly Husqvarna Intact GP), as Adrian Fernandez (Leopard Racing) and David Muñoz (BOE Motorsports) rounded out the top 10.