Gauloises Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards began adjusting their YZR-M1 machines to the demands of the Estoril circuit in typically mixed weather conditions on the windy west coast of Portugal today. Thick black rain clouds blew intermittently across long stretches of blue skies and warm sunshine, with occasional rain showers leaving the track surface slippery and unpredictable.
Despite the changeable conditions, which are expected to continue for the rest of the weekend, Edwards was able to follow on from a positive day of testing at Jerez earlier this week to take another step forward in the set-up of his YZR-M1. Edwards is using a shorter exhaust system compared to his team-mate Rossi, as he has done ever since Yamaha's private pre-season tests at Phillip Island last month, and the American was particularly impressed with its performance at this tight and twisty circuit.
Whilst Edwards was fourth fastest over today's two free practice sessions, neither of which contribute to the formation of the grid for Sunday's race, Rossi lapped sixth fastest with a 1'39.446, still some way off the circuit lap record of 1'38.423 which he set on the Yamaha YZR-M1 last season. Alex Barros (Honda) was significantly quick in both sessions, clocking the fastest time of 1'38.516 in the afternoon. He was followed by Sete Gibernau (Honda, 1'39.065), Nicky Hayden (Honda, 1'39.072) and Edwards (1'39.144).
Fortuna Yamaha Team rider Toni Elias continued to show impressive form for such a young MotoGP rookie, with the Spaniard setting the ninth fastest combined time for the day - a 1'39.732. In only his second official free practice outing Elias found himself half a second behind second placed man Gibernau and 1.2 second behind Barros.
Colin Edwards (Gauloises Yamaha Team) 4th, 1'39.144
"This morning was a bit of a waste of a session because I had a slow puncture on the front tyre. Despite that I went out this afternoon and it felt good straight away - we definitely made an overall improvement to the bike at the Jerez test. I find that the throttle connection to the engine is much better with the new exhaust, which is an important aspect at this circuit. I've never ridden the Yamaha here before but I had a feeling it would work well and in the twisty sections it's awesome. MotoGP racing is never easy but if we can work on our strong points and make those twisty sections even better then we have a good chance. "
Valentino Rossi (Gauloises Yamaha Team) 6th 1'39.446
"Friday isn't so important for the grid any more but it is important to use this time constructively to work on the set-up. We are okay but we have some difficulties, especially with the rear-end, and there is not a lot of grip at this circuit anyway. I was close to falling twice in that session. Some things are not working perfectly and the conditions are making it very hard. It's difficult to get the tyre to the right temperature, especially on the left side, because the conditions are changing all the time. We are not at our maximum yet but I hope the weather is better tomorrow so we can sort everything out. People are talking about rain on Sunday but I'm not worried because we know our bike works well in the wet."
Davide Brivio, Gauloises Yamaha Team Director
"It was quite cold today and there were strong winds, as well as light spells of rain, which made it very difficult to get the tyres to perform 100%. That is not an ideal situation when you are trying to find an initial set-up for a circuit but it is the same for everybody. Colin is going well and showing signs of improvement from Jerez, whilst Valentino still has a few problems to fix. With the new qualifying format we can dedicate the whole of Friday to collecting information so now we can look ahead to using it to make improvements tomorrow. Hopefully the weather is on our side!"
Toni Elias (Fortuna Yamaha Team) 9th, 1'39.732
"I am quite happy - really happy in fact with how today went. Every time we are getting closer to the leading group. This is important for me and the team because it means we are working in the right direction. This morning I made a silly little mistake, I went out on cold tyres and another rider came by on a hot lap. I moved out of the way but went a little too far and ran off the track. Live and learn. We had a small problem with suspension this morning, but in the end we found a solution. I'm looking forward to tomorrow because I like this style of track."
Ruben Xaus (Fortuna Yamaha Team) 15th, 1'40.163
"We will keep working; we have to at this high level. When you think you're getting close they move the benchmark again. The toughest part for me is the fact that I rode another bike for five years which was very different in character to the Yamaha. I have to learn to change my style to suit this bike. Once that happens I will be fine. The one who works hard will taste success."
- 1, A. Barros, Honda (BRA) - 1' 38.516
- 2, S. Gibernau, Honda (ESP) - 1' 39.065
- 3, N. Hayden, Honda (USA) - 1' 39.072
- 4, C. Edwards, Yamaha (USA) - 1' 39.144
- 5, C. Checa, Ducati (ESP) - 1' 39.200
- 6, V. Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) - 1' 39.446
- 7, M. Biaggi, Honda (ITA) - 1' 39.477
- 8, S. Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) - 1' 39.535
- 9, T. Elias, Yamaha (ESP) - 1' 39.732
- 10, J. Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) - 1' 39.769
- 11, K. Roberts, Suzuki (USA) - 1' 39.804
- 12, L. Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) - 1' 39.820
- 13, M. Tamada, Honda (JPN) - 1' 39.997
- 14, M. Melandri, Honda (ITA) - 1' 40.020
- 15, R. Xaus, Yamaha (ESP) - 1' 40.163
- 16, T. Bayliss, Honda (AUS) - 1' 40.639