SEPANG: Troubled by corner exiting and braking issues, MotoGP rookie Hafizh Syahrin Abdullah struggled to make an impact on the opening day of the Shell Malaysia Motorcycle Grand Prix at Sepang today.
The Monster Yamaha Tech3 rider had to settle for 17th in the first practice (FP1) after clocking two minutes and 1.419 seconds in dry conditions, a distant 1.722s behind Italian Andrea Dovizioso (Ducati) who topped the session.
The 24-year-old Ampang-born then placed 20th in second practice where he clocked 2:01.894s. Spaniard Alex Rins (Suzuki Ecstar) topped the timesheet in FP2 on 1:59.608s.
With home crowd expectations running high, Hafizh admitted it was a tough day at his favourite track.
"We expected to make an improvement, going from FP1 to FP2 but it did not happen. Sometimes this is the case, even at a rider’s favourite track.
"It was really tough for me to understand today, my bike could not turn well and I also struggled to stop the bike.
"We changed the tyres from soft, medium to hard and tweaked the suspension settings but it did not solve the issues.
"But we have a few ideas of what we need to change and I believe we can improve tomorrow and hopefully take more than a second off my lap times."
Hafizh who received a new aerodynamics update to his Yamaha YZR-M1, stressed that the new winglet he is using had nothing to do with the issues faced.
"It (winglet) helped me a lot especially on the straights. I don't feel a lot of wind on my body and the front tyre feels calmer.
"The 'wheelie effect' is also less (due to downforce) when coming out of a corner."
Teammate Johann Zarco also had a challenging day by his standards, placing ninth (2:00.726s) in FP1 and eighth (2:00.159s).
Hafizh’s rookie rival Italian Franco Morbidelli (EG 0,0 Marc VDS) was much faster today, clocking 2:01.209s for and 2:00.981s for 13th in both FP1 and FP2.
In Moto2, Khairul Idham Pawi (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) settled for 19th (2:09.831s) in FP1 and 25th (2:09.184s) in FP2.