Mixed Malaysian weather disrupts opening day at Sepang
As it has so many times in the past, the weather at Sepang played a major part in today's two Moto2 free practice sessions. Scott Redding was 12th and Mika Kallio 17th in this morning's 45-minute session, which was held in typically hot and humid conditions. Rain shortly after the start of this afternoon's second free practice meant that neither Marc VDS rider was able to improve their lap time.
Redding and his crew stuck to just one set of tyres during this morning's first 45-minute session, working to find a set-up to maximise tyre life for Sunday's race. With tyres dropping off in performance after just four or five laps the 19-year-old Briton evaluated a number of changes to his Kalex Moto2 machine designed to increase the amount of grip available on worn tyres. He ended the session 12th fastest, but just 0.620s from the top of the timesheet.
Redding's plan was to do the same with the other tyre option from Dunlop this afternoon, but the arrival of heavy rain just minutes into the 45-minute session necessitated a change to full wet tyres. The Marc VDS rider took to the track with 20 minutes of the session remaining, but was left with too little time to refine the wet set-up on the bike.
Mika Kallio continued to pay dearly for the crash with Marc Marquez in Japan last weekend, with the 29-year-old Finn complaining of a strange feeling with the bike from the start of this morning's free practice. The Marc VDS crew made a number of set-up changes to no avail and now suspect that the frame was more badly damaged in the Motegi crash than first suspected.
Kallio was using an evolution version of the Kalex chassis, but will switch back to the standard frame for tomorrow's final free practice and all-important qualifying session. The Finn will also receive a new engine, after Geo Technology engineers identified a problem with his current engine using the data from the Motegi race and today's two free practice sessions.
Scott Redding #45: 12th – 2'08.635
“There was more grip than I was expecting this morning, but the tyres dropped off a lot after just four or five laps. We stayed on the same set to try a couple of things with the bike on worn tyres, so I was pretty happy to finish less than a second off the fastest time. The idea was to try the second tyre option this afternoon, but I didn't even manage one lap before the rain arrived. It took a while for the track to be suitable tor wets, which meant we didn't have much time to work on wet set-up once I got back out there. Hopefully we'll have a dry session tomorrow morning and we can revert to our original plan with the second tyre option.”
Mika Kallio #36: 17th – 2'09.156
“From the very start today I had massive chatter problems, not just on fast laps, but also on laps where I was ten seconds off the pace. This afternoon in the wet I had a similar problem; the bike wasn't chattering but it was juddering under braking and on corner entry. We're not certain it's the frame causing the issue, but it's the most likely culprit, so we'll change it for tomorrow. In Japan I had a problem selecting the lower gears and even ran into the gravel at the hairpin in the race after missing a gear going into the turn. I had similar issues today and it looks like they've identified a problem with the gearbox from the data. So, not only will I have a new frame tomorrow but a new engine too; it's like today didn't happen!”
Michael Bartholemy: Team Principal
“We know that tyre wear is going to be an issue here, which is why Scott and his crew focussed on maximising rear grip on used tyres for the whole of this morning's session. Even though he wasn't looking for a fast lap time, he was within a second of the fastest time, which bodes well for the race. The idea was to switch to the other tyres this afternoon, but the weather put paid to that. Mika's feeling with the bike is very important and he is ultra-sensitive to even small set-up changes, but he had big problems from the start today and declared the bike very difficult to ride. We think now that the frame was damaged in the Motegi crash, but it's almost impossible to test when we're on the flyaway races. To play safe we'll go back to the older frame on Mika's bike tomorrow; it's not an ideal situation, but it's better than chasing our tails trying to find a set-up on a damaged bike.”