Morbidelli and Márquez star in sultry Sepang
Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS rider Franco Morbidelli’s red-hot form in the Moto2 World Championship continued today after he topped the opening day of practice at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia.
And a phenomenal first day in the Far East for the Belgian-based squad was rounded off by a superb return to action for Álex Márquez, who lapped inside the top three on the newly resurfaced 5.5km track in both practice sessions.
Morbidelli’s quest for a seventh podium finish in the last 10 races and fourth in a row got off to the perfect start today when his best time of 2’08’816 placed him in first position by 0.089s from Takaaki Nakagami.
Morbidelli’s exceptional performance came after Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS were frustrated by more adverse weather this morning when heavy rain drenched the Sepang International Circuit in the early stages of an FP1 that had already been red-flagged after just six minutes.
Race Direction halted the first session to check track conditions after four riders fell in quick succession at turn 14. Heavy rain started to fall shortly after the session was resumed, which was far from ideal for Morbidelli and Márquez after all the weather disruption in Phillip Island last weekend.
But they did at least take advantage of the rain to make a vital first assessment of the Sepang International Circuit’s new surface on Dunlop’s wet tyres.
Damp patches still littered the 5.5km track at the beginning of FP2, but Morbidelli quickly made his mark and as track conditions improved throughout, his best pace was only 1.5s off lap record pace, despite the rain washing away any rubber laid down earlier in the day.
Having been declared fit to participate in this weekend’s action after a nasty qualifying crash in Phillip Island forced Márquez to withdraw from last weekend’s Australian Grand Prix, the Spaniard made a sensational return today.
He was only able to complete two flying laps on Dunlop’s slick tyres before the rain intervention in FP1, but he was still immediately able to slot into the top three.
The 20-year-old carried on that stunning form this afternoon and he was able to improve his pace by 1.1s to keep himself comfortably inside the top three.
Franco Morbidelli: 1st – 2’08’816
“I am really happy because we have started this weekend in a really good way. And it is better to start good than bad! Today’s practice wasn’t perfect because of the weather conditions and it seems the rain is chasing us around the world at the moment. But we were able to try some things on the bike in the mixed conditions and I was quite fast. Being fastest on the first day is always a good boost and it sets us up for a positive weekend. Hopefully we can get some good weather and I’m looking forward to fighting for the win again like in Phillip Island.”
Álex Márquez: 3rd – 2’08’916
“I’ve got to be really happy to come back from a difficult weekend in Australia and be immediately inside the top three on the timesheets. After last weekend I am really motivated to finish off this triple-header in a positive way. The second practice was tricky because it is really risky when you go on track on slick tyres with a lot of damp patches on the surface. But I took enough risks to make third and I’m really satisfied with that. Now we understand where we can improve and we will need to do so because if it remains dry then I can see the lap times improving a lot.”