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.