MotoGP Sepang: Crutchlow tops FP2 as Binder sets overall Friday pace

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Picture: GeeBee Images

Red Bull KTM’s Brad Binder set the Friday pace in MotoGP after rain hit the Sepang circuit for afternoon practice.

WithU Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow was on dominant form in the challenging conditions as he reigned supreme in FP2 almost a second faster than Ducati Lenovo’s Pecco Bagnaia with Binder locking out the overall standings thanks to his morning 1’59.479.

Binder took charge as practice fired up in Malaysia for the first time in three years. The South African’s final effort bettering Phillip Island victor Alex Rins by a mere 0.097s with Marc Marquez continuing to show his returning potential on the Repsol Honda from third.

Monster Energy Yamaha’s Fabio Quartararo had initially held court in the morning session before the final runs shuffled the pack. The reigning champion opting not to utilise fresh rubber for the late-session shootout as he settled for seventh, with title rival Bagnaia doing likewise from fourth places behind.

Aprilia’s Aleix Espargaro had a challenging morning after suffering both a turn eight fall on an out lap and a technical issue on his second RS-GP, with the third championship hopeful ending the session 20th. Brother Pol picking up a three place grid penalty after rejoining the track unsafely.
Mooney VR46’s Marco Bezzecchi and WithU Yamaha’s Darryn Binder both suffered their own crashes in the initial action with the Italian regrouping to round out the top ten by the close of FP1.

The afternoon session kicked off under wet conditions after a heavy downpour during the delayed Moto2 action. Yamaha’s Franky Morbidelli leading the way with a 2’15.423 from LCR’s Alex Marquez and Bezzecchi before Jorge Martin bettered the runner-up on the Prima Pramac Ducati and Morbidelli advanced the pace with a 2’13.5.

The Italian charge continued after ten minutes on track as Bezzecchi joined Morbidelli in the top two with the M1 reducing the target by three tenths once again. Johann Zarco the next to sit second, with a 2’14.2 as the pair of Pramacs sandwiched the VR46 rider.

Red Bull KTM’s Miguel Oliveira circulated sixth from Ducati’s Jack Miller as the session unfolded. Aprilia’s Maverick Viñales, Marquez and Binder completed the top ten with Luca Marini heading the rookie duo of Raul Fernandez and Remy Gardner. Suzuki’s Joan Mir joined the mix for 14th with Crutchlow and HRC replacement Tetsuta Nagashima leading Fabio Quartararo in the late teens.

Rins was back into the top three as FP2 reached the halfway stage, his teammate bettering on his way to second as Morbidelli continued to refine the pace. The Italian the first into the mid 1’12’s and seven tenths clear of the GSX-RR before Zarco hit the bubble with his tenth attempt.

Morbidelli was once again in charge with 20 minutes to go as he broke through with a 2’11.734. His teammate up and into the top six with Viñales and Miller now ahead. Bagnaia circulated ninth before a push elevated him to fourth, at the expense of his own Lenovo teammate. Zarco returning to the top as the track continued to improve while Pol Espargaro arrived to third.

Crutchlow sat sixth with 15 minutes to go as Quartararo continued to improve ahead of him. Ducati locking out three of the top four positions as Zarco once again refined the target with Bagnaia in tow. The Brit climbed to third next time around before topping the FP2 times with a 2’10.485 on his 11th effort. Oliveira bettering by a mere 0.01s as Quartararo joined the party in third, another 0.03s back.

Bezzecchi was the first to venture out on slicks as the pace intensified. Morbidelli continuing to outpace the field as the times dipped into the 2’09’s with Quartararo on his tail. Oliveira again into second before Mir took his shot half a lap later.

Alex Marquez was on top with two to go as the LCR rider set a 2’08.644 time. Crutchlow and Zarco both bettering the Honda rider next time around with the trio firing up red sectors for their follow up efforts.

The chequered flag prepared with a raft of P1-worthy laps looking to register, Crutchlow once again in command thanks to a dominant 2’05.710 from Bagnaia, Alex Marquez, Miller and Zarco.
The entirety of the top five out of overall Q2 contention, however, due to the morning pace.

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Picture: GeeBee Images