MotoGP: Lorenzo strikes first in Sepang

Jorge Lorenzo of Spain and Movistar Yamaha MotoGP will look to keep his championship hopes alive at the Malaysian GP Sunday at 2:30 a.m. ET on FS1.

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In the hot and humid conditions at the Sepang International Circuit on Friday it was Movistar Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo who ended the day on top to send out a message to his title rival Valentino Rossi. All of the talk before the riders took to the track was about Rossi’s comments revolving around Marc Marquez from the Press Conference, but it was Rossi’s Movistar Yamaha teammate Lorenzo that stole the show amongst the haze at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix.

Lorenzo had played second fiddle to Dani Pedrosa in the morning’s FP1 session, but after spending most of FP2 working on race pace, the Spaniard stuck in some fresh rubber to set a 2:00.246. This time was less than half a second off Marc Marquez’s 2014 Pole Record (1:59.791) as the riders hit the ground running at Sepang due to the fact all of the teams get to test at the circuit during preseason. Lorenzo’s time was 0.669s faster than his title rival Rossi as he struck an important psychological blow in the epic 2015 MotoGP World Championship title fight.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa had been quickest in FP1 but found himself 0.047s off the pace of Lorenzo at the end of the day in second overall. The Spaniard will be keen to be involved in the fight for the race win after having missed out on all the fun of the podium battle at Phillip Island.

His teammate Marc Marquez (+0.226s) responded to Rossi’s criticism on Friday by ending the day third fastest overall. The reigning MotoGP champion took his 50th GP victory Phillip Island last time out and won last year’s race at Sepang from pole.

Ducati Team’s Andrea Iannone (+0.240s) followed up his podium at Phillip Island by ending the day fourth fastest despite crashing at turn 8 in FP2. Following his crash the Italian immediately went out and set his quickest time of the day, just 0.014s further back from Marquez at the circuit where his GP15 made its debut during the preseason test.

Rossi found himself down in fifth overall after an issue with his first choice bike at the end of FP2 prevented him from setting a flying lap on fresh rubber. Rossi, who has won six times in the premier class at Sepang, failed to improve on his time from the morning session but has shown before that he can recover from a poor Friday to be competitive come the race. The ‘Doctor’ currently leads Lorenzo by 11 points in the standings and has his first chance to lift that elusive 10th title if results go his way on Sunday.

LCR Honda’s Cal Crutchlow (+0.793s) carried on his run of good form that has seen him record three top 10 finishes in a row to end the day in sixth as the leading Satellite rider. Suzuki Ecstar’s Aleix Espargaro had expected his GSX-RR to struggle at Sepang due to the two long straights and its lack of acceleration, but he finished the day in seventh overall.

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Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati Team) recovered from his worst finish of the season at the Australian GP to finish in eighth, with Scott Redding (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) and Danilo Petrucci (Octo Pramac Racing) completing the top 10.

Avintia Racing’s Hector Barbera was the leading Open class rider in 11th, while the man who finished in sixth at the Australian GP, Maverick Viñales, was over 1.5s off the pace in 12th. British rider Bradley Smith on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 M1 struggled on the opening day and finished down in 14th.

Irishman Eugene Laverty was 16th, 0.001s ahead of his American teammate Nicky Hayden in 17th, while Australian Jack Miller (LCR Honda) ended the session in 20th.

Check out the combined results from MotoGP FP1 and FP2.