Marquez sets pace in Malaysia practice

repsolSEPANG: Recently crowned MotoGP champion Marc Marquez logged the fastest time Friday in opening practice sessions for the weekend’s Malaysian Grand Prix as riders acquainted themselves with a resurfaced Sepang circuit.

The Repsol Honda rider, who locked up the season title in Japan two weeks ago, posted a best lap of 2min, 1.21secs.

Marquez set the time on a dry surface in the morning session and did not attempt to better it in the afternoon when the track was slicked by rains, putting the brakes on lap speeds.

Fellow Spaniard Maverick Vinales of Suzuki, who is now fourth in the world championship standings, was 0.268 seconds off Marquez’s pace.

Britain’s Scott Redding was third-fastest at a gap of 0.297 seconds.

Riders were trying to assess how a track resurfacing and modifications to the circuit’s banking would affect tyre grip and strategy.

Marquez has an unassailable 57-point lead in the championship standings but has vowed no let-up in the final two races at Sepang and next month at Valencia.

That leaves Italian legend Valentino Rossi, a nine-time motorcycling world champion, trying to hold off his Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo of Spain in the fight for second-place in the championship.

Rossi posted the fifth-fastest lap on Friday, 0.401 seconds behind Marquez.