Rizla Suzuki MotoGP has had a positive first day at Sepang in Malaysia with all three riders confident of further advances in performance as the weekend progresses.
Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen have been joined at Sepang by Team Test Rider Nobuatsu Aoki for his first Grand Prix outing of the season. Capirossi led the way today for the three-pronged attack by recording a best time of 2’03.346 from his 33 laps to give him seventh place on the timesheets.
Vermeulen (2’03.723, 39 laps) clocked a time just over three-tenths-of-a-second behind his team-mate to give him 11th place on the leader-board, but with times so close Suzuki’s Australian star certainly believes he will be further up the timesheets throughout the weekend.
Aoki (P19, 2’05.998, 39 laps) used both sessions to re-acquaint himself with the hectic pace of a GP weekend. He consistently improved on his times throughout the day and knocked over a second-and-a-half off his best time from the morning in this afternoon’s session.
Today’s practice was held in very warm and humid conditions with the threat of heavy rain constantly in the air. Today’s fastest time was set by Colin Edwards on his satellite Yamaha.
Rizla Suzuki’s three-man team has one more free practice session tomorrow morning, before an hour of qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday’s 21-lap race at the 5,548m long Malaysian circuit is the penultimate round of the year and the event gets underway at 14.00hrs local time (06.00hrs GMT).
“It was strange conditions during this afternoon’s practice because we had really slow rain, but I stayed out towards the end and tried a different engine setting and it certainly improved the bike a little bit. It is still not the best it can be, but we know we are working in the right direction. The bike seems to be working quite well and I am quite happy with the way the first day went and the modifications that Suzuki have given us for this weekend seem to be working better. We still need to work on tyre settings and getting the best grip for here but I think we can do a good job on Sunday.”
“It’s good to be back at Sepang as it’s a track we know well and Suzuki has supplied us with some new parts that seem to be helping here with that bit of extra power that we were lacking at Phillip Island. We have tried quite a few different settings on the bike and have found a good direction. We haven’t done much tyre testing yet so I think there is certainly a bit to come with extra grip out of the bike. Overall I am quite confident and looking forward to the rest of the weekend.”
“First of all I’d like to say thanks to all the guys in the crew, especially after I destroyed a bike in a big crash at the test at Motegi and they’ve worked hard today and at the factory to prepare a bike for me for this wildcard race. Unfortunately we couldn’t bring the new engine here, but I have been testing the new exhaust pipe with the silencer and this has worked very well and made a big improvement with bottom end performance. We still need to do some work and improve on the times, but we are confident the work we do this weekend will be good for the Grand Prix team to use at Valencia. As for myself it has been really hard getting up to racing speed and getting comfortable, but it is coming and for sure I will improve more tomorrow and I think I will be competitive by the afternoon.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“It has been quite a positive first day’s work at Sepang today. The circuit layout and grip available certainly suits the GSV-R a bit more than the last GP at Phillip Island and that has shown in how close we are to the front-running pace. There is definitely more to come, but I am sure that is the same for all our competitors. We feel that the bike is close enough that with some careful work and correct decisions this evening we can be quite competitive here this weekend.
“For Nobu it has been his first day back in the office at a Grand Prix weekend and I am sure he will be looking to take a decent step forward tomorrow.”
Polini Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix Free Practice Classification:
1. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 2’02.667: 2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) +0.026: 3. Casey Stoner (Ducati) +0.303: 4. Shinya Nakano (Honda) +0.383: 5. Jorge Lorenzo (Honda) +0.512: 7. LORIS CAPIROSSI (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +0.679: 11. CHRIS VERMEULEN (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +1.056: 19. NOBUATSU AOKI (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +3.331: