Fuchs Kawasaki riders, Alex Hofmann and Shinya Nakano, delivered the best team qualifying performance of the season so far in today's opening session for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

Hofmann was first to stake his claim for a good grid position, setting the fastest time on race tyres early on in the session, in conditions made treacherous by the onset of rain shortly before qualifying got underway.

As the track dried out, the German continued to match the pace of the front runners, snatching pole again with just ten minutes of the session left to run. A flurry of fast laps by the usual suspects eventually demoted the 24-year-old rider from the top ten in the final minutes, only for him to bounce back to claim a second row position on the provisional grid with the fifth fastest time on his final flying lap.

"When I was on pole late in the session I was praying for rain, and that no one could go faster," confessed Alex. "But fifth is great and I just felt comfortable with the ZX-RR set-up all day. I felt totally in control no matter what I did with the bike and the times were coming easy; it is a lot of fun riding when it's like this."

Meanwhile, qualifying specialist Nakano was also in fine form, joining Hofmann at the top of timing screen early, before surging into the top three with 25 minutes remaining. Having then slipped to ninth place, Nakano's final fast lap secured sixth place with two-minutes remaining.

"This is a good start to the weekend for the Kawasaki team, who have worked hard to fix the engine problems we had in Qatar," said Shinya. "The rain made track conditions strange today, but I was able to do consistent times throughout the session and our race tyre choice is looking positive. If it's dry tomorrow I'm sure the other riders will be coming fast, but I'm ready."

"An excellent day," smiled Harald Eckl team manager. "Alex showed great form, he was always in the front group, and he was rewarded for his aggression and consistency; I hope he continues with this form. Again Shinya showed the high level of qualifying performance we have come to expect from him."

Including Hofmann and Nakano, there are four Bridgestone riders in the top six times - with Camel Honda's Makoto Tamada putting the Japanese rubber on provisional pole. As such, Eckl believes they'll be hard to beat.

"Clearly Bridgestone have an excellent tyre for this circuit and in dry conditions it is going to be tough for the opposition tyres to beat them," he warned. "And my thanks must go to the Kawasaki engineers, who have done a lot of work this week and made a quick response to the piston problems that out motors suffered in Qatar."

 

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