James Toseland (Winston Ten Kate Honda) made a very positive start to the final round of the championship, running out second fastest at the same circuit he won the 2004 title on, despite concentrating more on machine set-up for race conditions than going for a single blitzing lap. The track was wet in the first session and delivered less grip than during a recent test in the timed session in the afternoon. Toseland is out to score an overall second in the championship in 2006, and a grandstand battle is promised, as his rival for that placing was the quickest rider on day one, Noriyuki Haga.
Karl Muggeridge (Winston Ten Kate Honda) set ninth quickest time on his second machine, another strong result as it was running an experimental set-up, and yet the Aussie rider was still firmly in the top ten.
Ronald Ten Kate - Team Manager;
"Quite a good first day for us, because we did quite a lot of work with the electronics on James's machine, and with the set-up side of the bike we have not pushed too much to make a single fast lap; we are concentrating on the race set-up more. We are immediately at the top of the sheets anyway, so we didn't have to worry about the lap times too much. We know the direction now, and the track conditions were quite particular today, different to the test we had here three weeks ago. The surface looks in really strange shape, but it might improve for tomorrow, so we will have to see what happens. At the moment, race set-up is the main issue to work on."
James Toseland - Winston Ten Kate Honda Rider (2nd Position - Fastest Lap 1'40.734 - 25 laps);
"It was a strange day on track, first of all with the grip level and then the wind picking up at the end there. In testing we did 1'40, 1'40, 1'40, so it was quite frustrating for me today. But we still ended up second. Because of the track conditions, the bike felt quite a lot different to ride, and not as easy to be consistent. I was running wide and I wondered why it was difficult to stop. Plus, the rear grip goes down quite a lot as the tyre goes down, and that made it very difficult to stop the bike into the corner. More so than any other track. I put new tyres in, so I know why we have these problems now. For Sunday and the race, we need to make a change, because now we understand why things are the way they were."
Troy Corser; "This is my first time here in Magny-Cours and it's taken me a bit of getting used to". "This morning we did a really good first session to finish fourth, while this afternoon we went a bit faster but I had a crash at the front, up at the top in the penultimate corner. We're struggling to find exactly what I'm looking for at the moment and I may have missed out on putting in a good tyre towards the end. This weekend we're taking it how it goes, a bit like a test session really; you never know, we might learn something for next year! Saying all that I'm not far off anyway, Nori did one good lap, but I'm only two or three tenths off second place so I'm feeling OK".
"On my exit lap from the pits I was pushing quite hard because I was following some other riders and I crashed more or less in the same corner as Troy" commented Lorenzo. "I got onto the other bike and immediately set my best time which means that everything is OK. Now to remain in the top 3 this time will surely not be enough tomorrow because we're all close together. However I've seen that on race pace Toseland, Haga and myself are the fastest three so that's good. Let's see if we can improve a bit more tomorrow, and that will allow me to start from the front row of the grid".
Noriyuki Haga; "There are only two points between me and James so I know what I have to do,". "I like the Magny Cours circuit and have won there in the past. It has an interesting mix of long straights, some fast corners and very slow hairpins. There are a lot of places where you can make a pass under braking and this is one of our strengths with the R1. As always I will be going with the target of winning the races. If I can do that then the championship will look after itself."
Andrew Pitt has his own targets going to Magny Cours after yet another impressive outing in Imola. The Australian has been one of the revelations of the season and moved up to fourth in the standings with a third and fourth place finish last weekend. The former supersport champion knows that a good result is required in France if he is to fend off the attentions of the in form Alex Barros (Honda) and outgoing world champion Troy Corser (Suzuki) in the battle for fourth.
Alex Barros: "I thought I will be able to remember at least some parts of the track since I was here last time in 1992. But it turned out that I have to learn the track again. We changed some adjustments to the front, which solved the problems. Still we have to work on the electronics going trough longer corners. I should improve my lap times for long runs by half a second, than we have a good chance in the races."
Troy Corser- 5th, 1:40.936:
I had a little crash this afternoon when I lost the front at the right-hander at the top of the hill but it was very slow and I didn't hurt myself at all. We started with the set-up from our recent tests here but, for whatever reason, the bike didn't work the same way. Also, we found a tyre we liked and then tried some different tyres, but none of those worked as well. So we'll go back to what we know works well and try and improve it. I'm pretty happy with what I've got really and am confident about race day.
Yukio Kagayama- 6th, 1:40.950:
I started with the settings from our recent tests but the feeling on the bike was not as good. Today the track felt dirty and a bit slippery to me and I didn't want to push too hard too soon. In the morning, with the old settings, my lap times were not so good, so we made some changes to the settings in the afternoon and the feeling was better. Tomorrow we will carry on with this direction and see how much we can improve the bike.
Karl Muggeridge - Winston Ten Kate Honda Rider (9th Position - Fastest Lap 1'41.044 - 24 laps);
"My first bike had something interesting happening with the gearbox, so we had to move to the second bike. That had a completely different chassis setting, an experimental one, so we put some tyres in and we went out, with only 20-minutes left. The first lap was OK, in the low 1'41s. I could see the time ticking away but it was more important for us now to get the bike right if that is the bike we end up using. So just continued with the tyre I had, and did quite a few laps, and I feel confident with it. As far as the time is concerned, I am sure we can go faster. Sometimes things happen for a reason."
- 1. Haga - Yamaha - 1'40.474
- 2. Toseland - Winston Ten Kate Honda - 1'40.734
- 3. Lanzi - Ducati - 1'40.821
- 4. Pitt - Yamaha - 1'40.872
- 5. Corser - Suzuki - 1'40.936