Sepang - Ducati rider Andrea Dovizioso set the pace during
wet Malaysian MotoGP practice on Friday as world title hopeful Marc Marquez
twice went off the track.
The Spaniard however did not fall off his bike as the slow
run-offs outside the confines of the track were to help him reduce his speed.
Italy's Dovizioso, who faces an uphill battle to stop
Marquez winning his second straight world championship, clocked 2min 00.671sec,
while Marquez was 0.279 slower in fifth on the overall standings.
"It was the perfect day," said Dovizioso.
"I'm really happy about the lap time I did this morning. It was quite fast
"We did a good lap time. I was first. There was a good
feeling from the beginning, especially in the wet. In the wet we confirm good
things from last year and it was even better. I'm really happy about
that," he added.
Last year Dovizioso won the Malaysian grand Prix on a wet
Honda rider Marquez leads Dovizioso by 33 points and he can
clinch to the world title with a race to spare by finishing first or second at
Sepang, where his sole victory was in 2014.
Friday's best times were all set in the morning session,
when the track was damp after a brief shower, while the afternoon run was
Ducati's Alvaro Bautista of Spain rode his machine to the
second fastest time, posting 2:00.742, while Yamaha rider Johann Zarco of
France was third fastest.
Bautista, who had an impressive day, said he was pleased
with his Ducati machine especially in the morning session when the track was
drying up during practice.
"I feel quite comfortable and I'm happy with the first
day," he said.
Maintaining his strong performance form from Motegi, Zarco
however had a nasty fall in the wet afternoon session on turn 8 but he was seen
on television camera to get up and run to his machine.
Spain's Maverick Vinales on a Yamaha was fourth quickest but
Italian great Valentino Rossi, who is fourth in the standings with 188 points,
was 12th on the timesheets.
British Honda rider Cal Crutchlow was sixth, Czech rider
Karel Abraham on a Ducati seventh, and Spain's Hector Barbera, also on a
Ducati, was eighth.
Vinales continued Yamaha's improved wet-weather form by
setting the fourth fastest time, a further two tenths back.
Vinales, however, was involved in an incident with Barbera's
Ducati that cost him a damaged brake lever on his bike, forcing the Yamaha
rider into the pits during the afternoon session.
The Sepang circuit is known for its changeable weather,
fast-drying track and sudden storms: a perfect melting pot for an exciting
showdown for the crown.
Ducati's Jorge Lorenzo who was 10th fastest praised the
Ducati machine and Dovizioso's riding skills on both dry and wet track.
"Dovi's riding really, really well," he said.
Riders will battle it out on Saturday for grid positions.
A total of 50 points are still up for grabs in Malaysia and
in the season's final race in Valencia on November 12.
Malaysia Grand Prix combined first and second free practice times on Friday:
1. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Ducati) 2min 00.671sec, 2. Alvaro Bautista (SPA/Ducati)0.071, 3. Johann Zarco (FRA/Yamaha)0.136, 4. Maverick Vinales (ESP/Yamaha) 0.232, 5. Marc Marquez (ESP/Honda) 0.279, 6. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Honda) 0.389, 7. Karel Abraham (CZE/Ducati) 0.406, 8. Hector Barbera (SPA/Ducati) 0.476, 9. Dani Pedrosa (ESP/Honda) 0.491, 10. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Ducati) 0.518