Maverick Viñales went quickest on Day 2 at Sepang International Circuit, just beating teammate Valentino Rossi to the top late on as the Yamaha duo put in some timeattack laps.
Cal Crutchlow was third quickest, with the top three split by less than a tenth as the timesheets were close once again.
It was KTM Factory Racing’s Pol Espargaro who led the way early on Day 2, with action slow to get in gear following some overnight rain. But soon, times began to tumble – and a good number of late movers shook up the timesheets in the final hour. Espargaro also took a tumble, tipping off at Turn 4 and heading to the medical center. Largely ok, the Spaniard will nevertheless head to hospital in Kuala Lumpur for further checks.
Some of the biggest headlines on Monday were aero fairings, with Honda and Yamaha riders all trying some of this year’s evolutions. Crutchlow had the carbon-black Honda version to try out on HRC test duty, before Marc Marquez and Dani Pedrosa both tried the innovation at Honda.
At Yamaha, some of the new changes previously seen on test riders’ machines were on show, too – with both Viñales and Rossi trying them out.
The Yamaha duo at the top did a 1:59.355 and a 1:50.390 respectively, with Viñales putting in 68 laps and Rossi 39. Crutchlow, meanwhile, managed a 1:59.443 as his best of 65 laps – keeping the top three within 0.088 seconds.
Jorge Lorenzo was the next man on the timesheets. The five-time World Champion did a 1:59.498, and was only a further half a tenth back after 44 laps. Another Borgo Panigale machine completed the top five, with Jack Miller impressing once more – and only 0.011 off Lorenzo. Miller did crash, but nevertheless managed to break into the 1:59 club and did 44 laps.
Behind that top five, there was a slightly bigger gap back to sixth. Johann Zarco ended the day 0.193 off the top five after putting in 48 laps – just ahead of reigning Champion Marc Marquez and settling into life on the 2017 M1.
Marquez put in exactly the same lap count as compatriot and expected Championship rival Maverick Viñales – 68 – and ended the day with a 1:59.730 as his quickest; just 0.002 ahead of another big rival in the form of Andrea Dovizioso. Marquez was another crasher on Day 2, but it was a very minor tip off early in the lap just before some rain began to fall.
The reigning Champion explained he would be working through their programme – going from engine to setups to aero – on Days 2 and 3, and the Spaniard showed that to be true as he tried the aero-fairing in the afternoon. Dovizioso, meanwhile, is concentrating on a deeper evaluation of the new GP18 after initial positive reports after the opening day. Another Ducati was just behind him, with Danilo Petrucci putting the second Alma Pramac Racing machine in P9.
Andrea Iannone was tenth quickest on the second day as Suzuki look to move forward with their changes made for 2018, saying their engine last season had been a mistake in direction. The Italian suffered some early drama however when his GSX-RR caught fight and caused him to pull over, but got back out soon after and put in a total of 57 laps. Teammate Alex Rins was P13, with a similar lap count.
Aleix Espargaro was tantalizingly close to the top ten as the Noale factory continue to evaluate their winter mission for, amongst other things, more horsepower. He did 47 laps, with teammate Scott Redding putting in 51 further down the timesheets as he gets to grips with his switch to the RS-GP.
Dani Pedrosa was the only rider who didn’t improve and he was P12 after topping Day 1, but his fastest lap from the first day is the third fastest overall on combined times.
Pol Espargaro was P14 and did only 22 laps after his crash, a bit bruised, with Tito Rabat splitting the two KTM Factory Racing riders to take 15th; two tenths ahead of the second Austrian machine as Bradley Smith ended Day 2 in P16.
Franco Morbidelli struck back in the battle of the rookies on Monday, with the intermediate class reigning Champion P17 on the second day and managing to stay three tenths clear of fellow rookie Takaaki Nakagami. The Japanese rider was P21.
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