Valentino Rossi was the fastest MotoGP rider in the first practice session of the Shell Advance Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix on Friday, posting a best time of 2:02.724 on his Fiat Yamaha M1 machine.
The Italian, who sealed last year’s world title in Malaysia, was just over a tenth of a second clear at the top of the timings as he started his weekend in promising style in typically hot and humid Malaysian conditions.
“It’s been another good start for us here and we found a good setting straight away,” Rossi said. “I am feeling very comfortable on the bike and so far my shoulder is okay here. The track is quite dirty but that will get better and I love riding at this track, it’s one of my favourites and I am always happy to be on the bike here.
“We are confident that we will be able to make some more improvements tomorrow and be in good shape to try for the front row tomorrow afternoon.”
Andrea Dovizioso had led the session but his best time of 2:02.833 left the sole Repsol Honda rider for this weekend – teammate Dani Pedrosa is absent through injury – in second position, as he continued to show the kind of form which secured him his first premier class pole in the previous round.
Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo, who could take the title this weekend with a finish of ninth place or higher in the race, was third in the session and the final rider under 2:03.
At 0.436s off Rossi’s pace Casey Stoner was fourth. The Ducati rider had a crash ten minutes into the session when he lost the front end of his Desmosedici GP10 at turn four, but he was back on track shortly after.
“I’m not really happy with the way things went today,” Stoner said. “We had a small crash at the beginning of the session so had to switch bikes and do a lot of work to get it feeling better. Every time I went out there was some small problem and we seemed to take a while to find a reasonable setting.
“By the end I had established a good feeling and I wanted to make a better lap time on the second lap of my final run but I ran wide in turn one and that was that. We’ll take this data and try to improve the bike for tomorrow. We seem to be struggling most of all with the rear, just like at Motegi, but once we solve that I’m sure we’ll see major improvements with the rest of the bike.”
Álvaro Bautista’s final lap of the session slotted the Rizla Suzuki rookie into fifth position, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards completing the top six.
The top ten on Friday also included Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team), Aleix Espargaró (Pramac Racing), Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda).
Alex de Angelis (JiR Moto2) was the quickest rider in the Moto2 practice with a best time of 2:09.586. However, halfway through the one-hour session there were spots of rain on track and the majority of riders waited for a lull in the weather before venturing back on track for the final ten minutes.
At that stage the top five was De Angelis, Scott Redding (Marc VDS Racing), Toni Elías (Gresini Racing), Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar) and Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up) and the order did not change for the remainder of the session. De Angelis did however improve his time when he re-emerged towards the end of the session.
Redding ended the hour at 0.188s off the pace of De Angelis, with Elías, Simón and Iannone all within three-tenths of a second of the British rider.
Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Moriwaki Racing) was not far back in sixth (+0.050s on Iannone), with Roberto Rolfo (Italtrans STR), Simone Corsi (JiR Moto2), Dominique Aegerter (Technomag-CIP) and Héctor Faubel (Marc VDS Racing Team) inside the top ten.
Marc Márquez picked up where he left off in the previous round of the 2010 125cc World Championship as he set the best time in today’s opening practice. The Red Bull Ajo Motorsport rider’s fastest lap of 2:14.274 left him almost four-tenths clear of second quickest Pol Espargaró.
The Tuenti Racing rider’s session got off to a difficult start when he had a crash at turn 11 inside the opening ten minutes, but it failed to affect his confidence as he eventually lapped in a time of 2:14.650. The only other rider to get within a second of Márquez’s time was Championship leader Nico Terol (Bancaja Aspar) who was 0.510s off the lead time.
Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX) and Bradley Smith (Bancaja Aspar) completed the top five but both have work to do to close the gap on Márquez. Sandro Cortese (Avant Mitsubishi Ajo) was sixth fastest and avoided a high side at turn two at the end of the session, holding onto and controlling his bike admirably.
Danny Webb (Andalucia Cajasol), Randy Krummenacher (Stipa-Molenaar), Jasper Iwema (CBC Corse) and Adrián Martín (Team Aeroport de Castelló) all had crashes during the session. Webb suffered a fracture of the first metacarpal bone in his right hand, whilst Iwema sustained a ligament injury in his right thumb. Both underwent further medical check-ups following the session.
The riders return to the track at 9am local time on Saturday morning, when the 125cc second practice is scheduled to start.