Team Proton KR riders Jeremy McWilliams and Nobuatsu Aoki both cut their lap times in searingly hot conditions in today's final qualifying session for tomorrow's Malaysian GP, home race for the team's major sponsors, but that couldn't stop McWilliams losing grid places as he slipped from 16th to 18th.

"This is not a battle, it's a war," stated team owner Kenny Roberts. "We're chugging along. All our engines are still running, and they ran in Japan too, so it looks like reliability is going in the right direction. Now we need to take the next step in performance.

"We may well have the prospect of points tomorrow, but to be honest I'm not interested in that. I'm thinking of getting this development season over and going to bigger and better things. We know the bike's not good enough, and we're anxious to start with the new one," concluded the American.

Nevertheless, Ulsterman McWilliams cut his best time of yesterday by 1.361 seconds, sticking to the machine with the latest smaller and more aerodynamic fairing that arrived for this race.

Inside the sleek red-and-silver bodywork, a revised exhaust system has been added to other engine improvements that arrived for the last race, boosting overall performance slightly.

"I was right on the edge all day today, and again I don't know what to do to go faster. We're one second off last year's pole, and on the fifth row," Jeremy explained.

Aoki made an even bigger improvement, running more than two seconds faster round the 5.548km Sepang circuit, south of the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur.

"I think Jeremy and I both worked very hard today. The biggest problem is the heat coming off the engine. In these conditions it's really exhausting. I feel it especially on my shins. I've been wearing heat shields under my leathers and they worked okay at Motegi and Rio. It would probably be impossible without them," said the Japanese.

Tomorrow's race is the middle of a trio of back-to-back flyaway races, sandwiched between Japan last weekend and Australia next weekend.

 

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