Miller masters mixed conditions in Malaysia
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Jack Miller’s ability to quickly master rapidly changing track conditions came to the fore again today when the Australian powered his Honda RC213V machine to the top of the timesheets in second practice at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
The 21-year-old set a morale-boosting best lap of 2’08.872 to head FP2 by a commanding 0.399s after a key late change to slick Michelin tyres proved decisive in fast improving conditions.
The second practice session started on a wet track after earlier heavy rain had soaked new asphalt at the 5.5km Sepang International Circuit. Typically hot and humid conditions saw the track dry sufficiently for Miller to gain what could be vital information on changing grip levels on a drying track if similar conditions occur for Sunday’s 20-lap race.
Miller’s excellent ride to top spot in FP2 was the perfect way to bounce back from a small crash at the radically revised turn 15 this morning, which is the most significant alteration in a €3m renovation of the Sepang International Circuit.
Tito Rabat ended the opening day of practice in the Far East in 19th place overall, but he was also able to lap inside the top 10 in the tricky conditions thrown up in FP2.
Rabat used the varying conditions in the second session to experiment with Michelin’s full range of tyre options.
As the track dried out, Rabat opted for a different strategy to Miller and he went out at the end of the second 45-minute session on Michelin’s intermediate tyres to build up his confidence before setting his fastest time of 2’11’297 on his only flying lap on slick rubber. That impressive late attack elevated the Spaniard into an encouraging ninth place.
Today’s mixed conditions did at least give Miller and Rabat the perfect opportunity to assess the Sepang International Circuit’s new surface using Michelin’s slick and rain tyres. They also got chance to tackle the heavily modified final turn, which is now a complex multi-line corner that falls away sharply with negative camber.
Jack Miller: 16th – 2’02’600
“This afternoon was all about timing because I was fortunate to put on the slick tyres just at the right time when the track was in its best condition. You still have to go out there and get the job done, so I’m happy to see my name at the top of the timesheets. It was also tricky in FP2 to pick out where the track was wet and dry because of the new surface, so you had to be pretty careful. This new surface doesn’t seem to dry as quickly as the old one but they’ve done a great job taking a lot of the bumps out because it feels really nice and smooth. I felt pretty comfortable in the dry this morning but I got caught out on my last flying lap at the revised final corner. It is quite a big change compared to the previous turn 15 and the off-camber caught me out. It’s a shame because I’m sure my potential was better than 16th this morning.”
Tito Rabat: 19th – 2’03’108
“I was happy with my consistency in this morning’s FP1 and I think we did a very good job. It was good to have a dry session to understand the performance of the new surface and also to gauge the track modifications. It became a little more difficult this afternoon in the wet and I couldn’t find a great feeling with the bike. The track was improving all of the time and I was able to build up some confidence and right at the end of the session I was able to put in a decent lap time on intermediate tyres and then I put in my best time on slicks. We also got to understand how the new surface dries, so it wasn’t a bad second session. Hopefully we will have a dry track now for the remainder of the weekend because over these last two races I have been working a lot on my riding technique and today I felt we have been moving in the right direction. I could really feel a difference today and I am sure we can improve again if we get good weather.”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“Once again the weather has played a crucial role today, but we have to be happy to see Jack on top of the timesheets at the end of FP2. We definitely made the right tyre choice at the right time for both Jack and Tito and we could see they were able to take advantage of the track at its driest to set their best pace. Both of them inside the top 10 is a good way to start the weekend off and we must ensure we build on this positive start to have them both fighting for a points finish in the race on Sunday.”