Kaito Toba (Honda Team Asia) went fastest on Friday at the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix, with a final dash in FP2 deciding the timesheets and the Japanese rider getting the better of compatriot Tatsuki Suzuki (SIC58 Squadra Corse). CIP – Green Power’s Darryn Binder rounded out a top three split by 0.258 seconds.
After overnight rain, FP1 began on wets for everyone and that’s the way it stayed until later in the session, with the fastest man, Andrea Migno (Mugen Race), one of only a few to make a late switch to slicks and the top 14 split by an uncharacteristic 7.365 seconds. The afternoon would allow improvements, however, with Ayumu Sasaki putting Petronas Sprinta Racing into P1 for a good while as the Japanese rider bounced back from a big crash in FP1…but a last dash for glory was just around the corner.
By the end of the shuffle, Toba was on top with a couple of tenths in hand over Suzuki, as Binder shot up into third. Sasaki got himself back up at the sharp end to take fourth overall on Friday, with Migno putting in another solid showing in the afternoon to complete the top five. Aron Canet (Sterilgarda Max Racing Team) was P6, just 0.008 off Migno as the gaps dwindled.
Alonso Lopez (Estrella Galicia 0,0) and Romano Fenati (VNE Snipers) were even more closely matched in seventh and eighth respectively, registering the exact same fastest lap. Rookie Sergio Garcia (Estrella Galicia 0,0) was P9 in a solid first day at Sepang, with Tony Arbolino (VNE Snipers) completing the top ten ahead of Jaume Masia (Mugen Race), who got the better of Filip Salač (Redox PrüstelGP) by just 0.001 to take P11.
So where’s the brand new World Champion? Lorenzo Dalla Porta (Leopard Racing) was 13th quickest on Friday, a couple of tenths adrift of the man ahead of him. That’s enough, however, to see him move straight through to Q2 on Saturday should the rain come down in FP3 – where he’d also be joined by rookie Raul Fernandez (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team).
A couple of surprises missing from provisional Q2 were Marcos Ramirez (Leopard Racing) down in P16, ahead of Gabriel Rodrigo (Kömmerling Gresini Moto3) and Albert Arenas (Gaviota Angel Nieto Team). Rodrigo crashed, as did John McPhee (Petronas Sprinta Racing), who ended the day in P24 and will be hoping for a dry FP3.
Tune in at 9:00 (GMT +8) for FP3 on Saturday, before qualifying from 12:35 – where the fight for second overall could see another shake up.
1 – Kaito Toba (JPN – Honda) 2’12.466
2 – Tatsuki Suzuki (JPN- Honda) +0.235
3 – Darryn Binder (RSA – KTM) +0.258
4 – Ayumu Sasaki (JPN – Honda) +0.311
5 – Andrea Migno (ITA – KTM) +0.345
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