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Morbidelli Secures Pole Position for Yamaha Sepang Racing in Malaysia

Morbidelli Secures Pole Position for Yamaha Sepang Racing in Malaysia

The Yamaha Sepang Racing Team will start the inaugural 8 Hours of Sepang race from pole position, after a dominant qualifying performance today in Malaysia. The YART Yamaha EWC Official Team bounced back to secure sixth place on the grid for the traditional Le Mans style start, after a crash in Q1 this morning saw Marvin Fritz ruled out of the race with a broken right collarbone.

The Yamaha Sepang trio of Franco Morbidelli, Michael van der Mark and Hafizh Syahrin looked untouchable in qualifying today. All three topped the timesheet in their respective qualifying sessions this morning, with the Italian MotoGP rider posting the fastest lap of all with a time of 2'03.907, which was more than enough to secure provisional pole for the Endurance World Championship debutants after Q1.

A minor crash in Q2 for Morbidelli meant the 2017 Moto2 World Champion was unable to improve upon his previous best and the same was true of van der Mark and Syahrin. However, their average from Q1 was enough to secure provisional pole position for Yamaha Sepang Racing, while Morbidelli's fastest time meant that he was the final starter in this evening's Top 10 Trial, which was run under the floodlights at the Sepang International Circuit.

It was a new scenario for Morbidelli who, unlike teammates van der Mark and Syahrin, has no previous experience of the EWC Top 10 Trial, in which riders take to the track individually and have just one flying lap in which to set their best time. Undeterred, the MotoGP rider simply went out and pushed to the limit, besting his closest rival by 0.793s to secure pole position with a time of 2'04.647.

It was Niccolò Canepa who took to the track for the Top 10 Trial aboard the #7 YART Yamaha YZF-R1, after what has been a difficult few days on track for the Austrian squad. The team had to build a brand-new race bike ahead of the 8 Hours of Sepang, following the destruction of their number one bike at the Bol d'Or, and a tight timeline left no time for a shakedown test before the bike was shipped to Malaysia. All three riders struggled to find the good feeling they'd had with the previous machine during free practice and qualifying in Sepang, with the issues only resolved at the conclusion of qualifying.

With no time to test the revised settings ahead of his single flying lap in the Top 10 Trial, Canepa was left disappointed with his lap time, although it was enough to secure the YART Yamaha squad a start from sixth place in Saturday's inaugural 8 Hours of Sepang race. The team will, however, start without regular rider Marvin Fritz, who is already on his way back to Europe for treatment on his broken collarbone. Fritz will be replaced on the YART Yamaha YZF-R1 for the race by reserve rider, Karel Hanika.

The inaugural 8 Hours of Sepang race gets underway at 13.00 local time (06.00 CET) on Saturday 14th December, with the final part of the race set to run under the recently installed floodlights at the Sepang International Circuit.

Franco Morbidelli

Yamaha Sepang Racing Team

It's always good to qualify on pole, but it's also fun to do it in the way they do here in EWC, with just one lap on an empty track to set your fastest time. The format certainly gets the adrenaline flowing, as you try to squeeze every little bit of speed from the bike. Tomorrow we will take advantage of the rest day before returning to the track on Saturday. In the race we'll try and do our job in the best way and try to secure the best result possible. This will be my first EWC race, but it's a fun series and I'm enjoying the challenge, so thanks to Yamaha, to the Sepang International Circuit and to the team for giving me this opportunity.

Franco Morbidelli
Michael van der Mark

Yamaha Sepang Racing Team

We've enjoyed a strong start to the race weekend, with Franco posting a fantastic lap in the Top 10 Trial to turn our provisional pole from qualifying into the actual pole position for Saturday's race. Even more important is our constant improvement and the better feeling with our YZF-R1 that we all gain with every exit. All three of us have a really good pace, so I'm sure we can fight at front in the first ever 8 Hours of Sepang race on Saturday. I'm looking forward to it!

Franco Morbidelli
Hafizh Syahrin

Yamaha Sepang Racing Team

I'm very happy that we were able to secure pole position in front of mine and the team's home crowd for the first ever 8 Hours of Sepang race. It's sure to be a tough race in hot conditions on Saturday but we believe in our package, which is really strong, so let's see what we can do. We need to patient in the race, avoid making any mistakes when dealing with traffic on track and make sure our pit stops are as slick as possible. I believe in the team; I have faith in my teammates, and I think we can do a good job in the race.

Franco Morbidelli
Niccolò Canepa

YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

From the first laps we did here in Sepang we had some difficulties with the bike; the feeling was that it was a lot different to the bike that was destroyed at the Bol d'Or. Finally, after qualifying, we figured out what the difference was and we've now fixed it, but that meant we started the Top 10 Trial from zero, with no time on the revised set up. I'm confident that we can use tomorrow's rest day to understand how we can improve ahead of the race on Saturday, as everyone in the team is working so hard to put us back on top. I wish my teammate Marvin a speedy recovery after he crashed and broke his collarbone this morning, as we'll miss him in the race. Get well soon mate!

Franco Morbidelli
Broc Parkes

YART Yamaha EWC Official Team

It's been a tough few days for us here in Sepang, with limited dry track time and a few problems that are now fixed with the bike. Unfortunately, Marvin crashed in qualifying and broke his collarbone but, fortunately, we've got Karel Hanika who can step in to take his place, so we still have a strong team for the race. Our pace is good, so I think we can do a good job in the race on Saturday.

Franco Morbidelli