Press Release from Suzuki Ecstar: The opening free practice session at the Shell Malaysian MotoGP at Sepang today saw both Team Suzuki Ecstar riders Maverick Viñales and Aleix Espargaró on a strong pace aboard their Factory GSX-RRs.

Viñales was the quickest of the two, finishing the FP1 session in second place with a lap-time of 2’01.478, while Espargaró slotted into seventh, 300ths-of-a-second behind on 2’01.774.

The day was then affected by poor weather conditions and only in the morning could the riders could make some laps with a dry set-up, while in the afternoon’s FP2, the conditions changed from wet to dry. This slowed down the work for the crews, who couldn’t undertake all the work that was planned, but didn’t prevent the riders having a first taste of the new tarmac surface and the changes that have been done to the layout.

Both Viñales and Espargaró made strong progress in the morning session, finding themselves in the top positions for many laps. The lap-times are expected to drop significantly further tomorrow if the conditions are dry, but according to the weather forecast, the unstable conditions could prevail until Sunday’s race.

Davide Brivio – Team Manager:

“Fortunately this morning we had at least one session in dry conditions, therefore we were able to make some preliminary checks and – most importantly – to be in the provisionally top-10 with both riders. In the afternoon the rain made the track wet, it was about to dry but never turned into perfect conditions, so it was hard to manage the session. We decided to make some checks in the wet, and it was helpful because these conditions may be also be the same for the next two days; so also important to be ready for any sudden changes. For the moment, both riders feel good, although the day has been a little slow, but this morning they proved to be effective. We can only wait until tomorrow to see what the conditions are like and prepare for the race.”

Maverick Viñales:

“The day has been difficult because of the weather conditions. In the morning, we could only do the last three laps while pushing a little, and in the afternoon I didn’t take any risks as it was too easy to make a mistake and incur some damage. The early impressions are positive, I feel we could find a good set-up and my times improved positively. The new tarmac gives some more grip, but I couldn’t quite understand how it behaves under wet conditions; the previous surface dried very quickly, while this one looks like requiring longer. At least today we could test the durability of the tyre, as, with the softer tyre, I felt confident in terms of performance and we have almost covered the race distance so that tomorrow we will be on a good starting point already to complete the preparation for the race in terms of consistency. Also, it’s good that I could make the best lap with a worn tyre.”

Aleix Espargaró:

“Today we couldn’t do so many laps in full dry conditions, so we still miss a lot of information and work. This morning, at the beginning of the session, I didn’t feel totally confident, but later on we managed to find a more comfortable set-up that allowed me to improve my lap-times and close the session in the top-10. Finally, the feeling is ok, we could also try the durability of the tyre and it looks ok to me, while in the afternoon, we spent our time trying to get the feeling in the wet with the new surface, checking our information. It was meaningless to take any risks in the wet conditions, so we only verified the base set-up in order to have some information for tomorrow in case of variable conditions again.”

SHELL MALAYSIA MOTORCYCLE GRAND PRIX COMBINED RESULT:

1. Marc MARQUEZ, Repsol Honda Team – 2’01.210
2. Maverick VIÑALES, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR – 2’01.478 +0.268
3. Scott REDDING, OCTO Pramac Yakhnich – 2’01.507 +0.297
4. Andrea IANNONE, Ducati Team – 2’01.521 +0.311
5. Valentino ROSSI, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – 2’01.611 +0.401
6. Hector BARBERA, Avintia Racing – 2’01.667 +0.457
7. Aleix ESPARGARO, Team SUZUKI ECSTAR – 2’01.774 +0.564
8. Yonny HERNANDEZ, Pull & Bear Aspar Team – 2’01.815 +0.605
9. Alvaro BAUTISTA, Aprilia Racing Team Gresini – 2’02.011 +0.801
10. Jorge LORENZO, Movistar Yamaha MotoGP – 2’02.013 +0.803