Camel Yamaha Team rider Colin Edwards clinched the first MotoGP accolade of 2006 as he charged through treacherously wet conditions at the Catalunya Circuit to the fastest time of the 40-minute MotoGP Official Practice and the prize of a brand new car. After a brief appearance in this morning's dry free practice, Edwards emerged with a string of fast laps at the end of the afternoon session to usurp his otherwise dominant team-mate Valentino Rossi, who was unable to respond with a late effort of his own after a falling whilst leading the time sheets on his twelfth lap.
Today's success concludes a positive weekend for Yamaha, which saw Rossi set the pace in dry conditions on Friday and Saturday, with Edwards and Carlos Checa (Yamaha Tech 3) in close attendance. The surprise of today's session was Checa's team-mate James Ellison, who showed his prowess in the wet with the fourth fastest time as he continued to adapt to the YZR-M1 machine. Checa also challenged for the car today but, like Rossi, slid out of the session in turn ten, where Kenny Roberts Junior's (Team KR) efforts also ended as he too mounted a challenge for the fastest lap. The exciting curtain raiser to the season now gives way to three more days of official tests at Jerez, starting next Friday, before the season proper gets underway at the same circuit in three weeks' time.
Colin Edwards (1st, 1'57.102, 15 laps);
"When I saw the weather before the session started I thought to myself that the car would end up in the hands of whoever was prepared to take the most risks. In the end the times came quite comfortably and we were able to keep chipping away throughout the session, just getting faster and faster, and to be honest I think I could have knocked even more time off with another couple of laps. This is a confidence boost for me but I have been saying since the last couple of tests that we are in good shape and this proves it. The team have been working so hard to come up with a bike that works out of the box and I believe we have that now. When you have a bike like that and it works in the rain too, then you know you have something special. It is nice to win the car but every rider out there wants to win races. I feel I am in a position to do that this season."
Valentino Rossi (3rd, 1'59.360, 11 laps);
"After I saw that I could not win the car I thought the best thing was for Colin to win it, so I am really happy for him. We have been working hard together over the winter and he deserves this success. I was setting some fast lap times and my pace was good but I made a mistake in braking and unfortunately that was the end of my practice. Anyway the most important thing from this weekend is the way the bike performed in the dry on Friday and Saturday and also in the wet today. This gives us a lot of confidence for the season. Now we go to Jerez for another test and it will be interesting to see if we have solved the problem we had with the vibration. If we have done that, then we are ready for the first race."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"It is nice for the team to start the season by winning the first 'trophy' available. It was a pity there wasn't a closer battle at the end between Colin and Vale but the important thing is that the car ended up at Yamaha! We have had a good winter of testing and now we head to Jerez to make the final preparations before the first race."
Tech3 Yamaha rider James Ellison succeeded to occasionally challenge the top of the classification charts today in the wet conditions, finally ending fourth fastest and leaving Herve Poncharal to be one happy Team manager. Despite a crash in today's session Checa's steady and fast performance also played testimony to the great progress the team has made in the three-day test.
James Ellison (4th, 1'59.619, 16 laps);
"Overall I am really happy with how far we have come this weekend. I was a bit disappointed with the weather today because we made some huge steps forward yesterday and we had more plans for today, which we couldn't complete because of the rain. In fact we learnt a lot yesterday and improved by about two seconds, so who knows what we could have done today if the sun had shined! It was great to come to a track I really like and to enjoy riding again after hitting something of a wall in sepang. I've been more relaxed and have started to treat the bike a little more like 'my' bike - letting it move around a bit more. The tyres are generally feeling good for me. I tried some qualifiers yesterday but didn't really use them to my advantage and my best times throughout the weekend have been on race tyres. Anyway I was slightly praying for some rain at some point because I know how good the Dunlops are in the rain. It was a real boost to see the number 77 at the top of the screens for some time today during the qualifying session!"
Carlos Checa (8th, 2'00.551, 13 laps);
"We're quite satisfied and working very well together in the team. This has been a good test and we have worked hard on trying to improve the areas that we need to. Obviously it's very encouraging to have been so fast all weekend and it seems that the bike and tyres are working well here. The main area we have to concentrate on is the performance of the tyres after a few laps. Over a short distance everything is great but after six or seven laps it starts to get harder. At the moment it's hard to say what will happen in the race. This is the reality at the moment and it's something that Dunlop and Yamaha together are concentrating very hard on. I hope we will have some new tyres to try soon. My fall in the qualifying session was disappointing but it was the same for Valentino and Kenny Roberts, we all fell in the same place. Anyway I am not hurt and this is the most important thing. The M1 is very good although of course we have some more to do on the setting, and we'll keep working
at this next week in Jerez. Anyway I am very pleased with the work we have done this weekend. We have a clear vision of where we need to go and everyone is very happy and enthusiastic about the job we have. We have a good base setting to work on throughout the season. We need to stay focused on the job in hand and I am confident that the results will come."
Herve Poncheral - Tech3 Yamaha Team Director;
"This weekend has been incredible; far, far beyond our expectations. So far we've been to three tracks and the bike has behaved very well at all three. We've used more or less the same base setting in each place and it's worked well each time. This shows how good the M1 is and it has also allowed us to concentrate on tyre testing, which is the most important thing for us right now. Tonight I am a very, very happy Team Manager! We've been fast in the dry and in the wet. Carlos is the best thing that could have happened to the Team. He's brought so much to us. He is as enthusiastic as a beginner, but with all the talent and knowledge of experience. He has helped everyone so much and he is the best possible thing also for James. Before there was so much pressure on James, but now Carlos is showing him the way and showing what's possible with this bike and our Dunlop tyres. James has access to all Carlos' data and this weekend he has improved each day. He knows what he has to do. We have
the best possible combination between a young, talented rider with a lot to learn but great potential and an older rider with great experience who is hungry for results."
Official practice classification:
- 1. Colin Edwards (USA) Camel Yamaha Team, 1'57.102
- 2. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda Team, 1'58.921
- 3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Camel Yamaha Team, 1'59.360
- 4. James Ellison (GBR) Tech 3 Yamaha, 1'59.619
- 5. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, 2'00.001
- 6. Marco Melandri (ITA) Fortuna Honda, 2'00.218
- 7. Kenny Roberts (USA) Team Roberts, 2'00.225
- 8. Carlos Checa (SPA) Tech 3 Yamaha, 2'00.551
- 9. John Hopkins (USA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, 2'00.621
- 10. Randy de Puniet (FRA) Kawasaki Racing Team, 2'01.249
- 11. Shinya Nakano (JPN) Kawasaki Racing Team, 2'02.177
- 12. Makoto Tamada (JPN) Konica Minolta Honda, 2'02.197
- 13. Alex Hoffman (GER) D'Antin Pramac, 2'04.003
- 14. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati Marlboro Team, 2'05.073
- 15. Toni Elias (SPA) Fortuna Honda, 2'05.961
- 16. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Ducati Marlboro Team, 2'06.724
- 17. Jose Luis Cardoso (SPA) D'Antin Pramac, 2'06.846
- 18. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team, 2'07.326
- 19. Vittoriano Guareschi (ITA) Ducati, 5.13.977
- Catalunya Lap Record: Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2005 - 1'43.195
- Catalunya Best Lap: Sete Gibernau (Honda) 2005 - 1'42.337