Camel Yamaha Team riders Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards were welcomed to the Phillip Island circuit by bright blue skies and cool ambient temperatures of 18ēC today, as the paddock breathed a sigh of relief that dismal recent forecasts were denied on the first day of practice for the Australian Grand Prix. The relatively good weather gave the riders ample opportunity to begin set-up work on their YZR-M1 machines as they worked to find an ideal configuration to suit the demands of the fast and flowing circuit over 27 laps on Sunday.
However relatively fresh track temperatures of 28ēC, compared to 45ēC on the first day in Malaysia one week ago, made life difficult for the Italian and the American as they tried to adapt their bikes to cope with the lower grip levels. Both riders struggled for rear traction and after ending the day in eighth and thirteenth place respectively they will aim to work specifically on this area in tomorrow morning's final free practice session before qualifying takes place in the afternoon. Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) set the pace today with a best lap of 1'29.745.
Valentino Rossi (8th - 1'31.045; 58 laps);
"Friday is always a difficult day for us because we have to make a lot of changes to the bike from one circuit to the next and today was no different. Especially here, since the track temperatures and the conditions are a big change from Malaysia, which makes life especially difficult and we have some work to do. The grip levels are lower than in past years and I think both Colin and I are struggling with the rear. For me it is taking me four or five laps to get the tyre up to a temperature where I can ride at the maximum so obviously this is not the ideal situation for me. We have to find a setting and a tyre that can deal with these cooler conditions better tomorrow because this is a very important race for us and I want to do well in front of the Australian fans. However we have gathered a lot of data today and we have some good ideas for tomorrow, so we're quite confident that we can improve the situation."
Colin Edwards (13th - 1'31.514; 55 laps);
"It hasn't been a bad first day despite how it may seem on the time sheets. My only problem at the moment is on the rear - it steps out if I brake too hard, runs off line if I'm too fast through the corner and spins up if I get on the gas too early. The front end is great but the low track temperatures are really not helping the bike to work with the rear tyre we have at the moment. This will be our main focus tomorrow and I think once we get that sorted out then the lap times can come down dramatically. It seems Valentino has some similar problems and between both sides of the garage we have some good ideas, so let's see what happens tomorrow."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"Today was quite cold and we have found ourselves in a completely different situation to Malaysia, which we expected. Valentino spent a lot of time working to find a good race tyre, whilst Colin worked hard on adapting the setting of his bike after struggling at Sepang. We didn't test here in February like the other teams so we have a lot of work to do compared to them. Already we can see that our rivals are setting a strong pace and they will be hard to beat on Sunday, but we are confident we can make the right steps forward tomorrow."
Carlos Checa (10th, 1'31.137, 43 laps);
"Today was one of the best sessions we have had all year. I am very happy with the progress of the Dunlop tyres and today confirms the steps that we have achieved. To be so close to Valentino and in front of Colin Edwards is very encouraging for me although also being on a Yamaha I wish them all the best in their setup troubles. Phillip Island is one of my favourite tracks and to come here and records these times, shows that we are improving all the time. It is not only the time I am happy with as we are now getting very good consistency with the tyres and the durability is improving all the time. Also, we have much better side grip of the rear tyre compared to the troubles we had last week in Malaysia and this is allowing us better drive. Side grip is very important at a place like Phillip Island as we are on the edge of the tyre for very long periods, especially coming onto the straight and this is vital for a good lap time. I am looking forward to the sessions tomorrow as the weather seems to be getting better all the time so if we have a fine weekend we are expecting a very good result.
James Ellison (19th 1'32.778, 44 laps);
"I wish I could be as happy as Carlos but today has been a continuation of the rest of the year so I am pretty disappointed. It is very frustrating to me and the rest of the team because no matter what direction we decide to go nothing works. All I can hope for is that we can decide something overnight that will help us in the morning as I am determined to finish this season on a high note. I love this Philip Island track and I don't think people realise how well I want to do here so I have to have the attitude that tomorrow is another day and that things will improve.
Randy de Puniet: 1st - 1'29.745;
"Sometimes you turn up at a racetrack and the bike just seems to work; that's what happened here today. From the first lap this morning I felt comfortable on the bike, and we've changed very little during the two practice sessions. This has allowed us to test a number of different tyres from Bridgestone, and it has also given me time to perfect my lines at the corners where I wasn't so quick during winter testing. Both the bike and the tyres have improved considerably since we tested here in February, which is down purely to hard work on the part of Kawasaki and Bridgestone, so I have to thank them for that. I didn't feel like I was pushing so hard on my last lap, but I had a big slide exiting the final turn. But, our bike is very predictable when it slides, so I was able to hold the throttle wide open and, as a result, I didn't lose so much time. This is something we need to keep in mind for qualifying tomorrow, when I think it's possible to go even faster if the conditions remain the same."
Loris Capirossi, 2nd fastest, 1m 30.310s;
"I was worried that it would be really cold here but in fact the conditions aren't bad. We started today with a different set-up, then we changed one of the bikes and I think we found a good direction. The bike and tyres are competitive, so this afternoon I was able to do my best lap of the day on the 15th lap of a long run. After the Czech GP we had a long meeting with Bridgestone to prepare for these three flyaway races and I am very happy with the work they've done, they have perfectly responded to the feedback we gave them for Sepang and for here, especially considering the low track temperatures. In the past we have had problems with the low temperatures here but we have now solved that and I think we can be competitive for the last few races. So far we are okay, we will aim for another step forward tomorrow. I predict we will have a good bike for Sunday and it will be another tight race here."
Nicky Hayden: "It's been a reasonable start to the weekend compared to the last few races which is good. We made a bit of an improvement this afternoon and tried a few settings that worked better on the bike. The biggest thing right now is to try to find some more traction and get the bike to transfer weight without hurting the front too much. We've definitely got some ideas about how to improve it and right now Turn 10 is my worst point - getting out of that slow corner and into the next left. The bike feels ok in a few spots, though we've definitely got some work to do - I need to be able to get into the 1m 30s consistently tomorrow. So all the boys in my team will put their heads together and come up with something to keep it going in the right direction tomorrow."
Dani Pedrosa: "Today I was really just checking my physical condition and also the conditions of the track because the temperatures here are very different to the last race in Sepang. From being away from racing for four days I felt pretty good - but now to be back on the bike is pretty difficult - it feels really sore. I had some painkillers this afternoon to ease it a little - but no injections. It's going to be important to step up my current pace, and we'll see if we can do it tomorrow. I ran off the track this afternoon because I touched the brake on the downhill section and lost the front - it went completely straight on, and I released the brake but it was too late to stay on track. I will just keep taking things step by step this weekend - hopefully they will be big steps!"
Sete Gibernau, 4th fastest, 1m 30.693s;
"Not so bad so far, we're pretty consistent on lap times. Also I'm getting better physically and I'm more relaxed about my left shoulder [Gibernau broke his left collarbone in June and has since undergone two operations to fix the injury] but I still need to get some more confidence back. The team is helping me to do that and Ducati and Bridgestone are working really hard too. We still need to make a bit of an improvement with our set-up for the race here. We have got the bike working on one set of tyres but we think that the new rear has got more potential, so we need to get the bike to work better with that extra grip."
Marco Melandri (8th, 1'31"154):
"We've gone from 40ēC in Malaysia to 15
degrees here in Phillip Island. I'm happy to be back at a circuit where
I have so many good memories. This morning the bike worked quite well
and I was able to lap at a pace we didn't manage to improve on in the
afternoon. We are focused on preparing for the race, testing a lot of
tyres alongside Michelin. We're not far off but we have to improve the
balance of the bike. I'm still struggling to control the front under
braking and on the entry into the corner. I'm still confident though
because the distance to the front guys is not so much and it looks as
though a few of them even used a qualifying tyre this afternoon."
Toni Elias (18th, 1'32"696):
"Today was a quite difficult day for us.
We've worked really hard to solve the problems with the suspension and
chassis. We don't seem to be able to find enough traction to get the
rear tyre up to temperature. Obviously the cold track temperatures are
not helping with this. So alongside the team and Michelin we will
analyse the problem and try to improve tomorrow."
"I have to say that this has not been one of the best first days of a Grand Prix. We know there is a lot of grip with the tyres because Bridgestone are doing really well out there on other bikes. There are a few things we need to work out with the bike. We have to get it turn a bit better but I'm confident that I can sit down with Stuart and the boys and get the best possible solution for tomorrow. We know there's grip so it's time for us to go out there and get it done!"
"We made quite big steps with the bike today. We didn't really know where we were going to start because last year Kenny had an accident on the first day so we didn't have a lot of data, plus we didn't test here in the close season - like a lot of others did. I am quite happy with the steps we made, but we are still looking to get the best out of the rear grip that the Bridgestones are giving us. The guys are working hard and I'm sure we will be a lot stronger tomorrow."
Makoto Tamada - KONICA MINOLTA Honda Rider (11° - 1'31.346")
"I'm pretty satisfied of the job we have done today. My RC211V set up is almost ok and this permitted me to obtain my performance easily. I think I still have a good margin; tomorrow I want to get to the qualifying session in the best conditions to make a good use the qualifiers. Furthermore, tomorrow we will have to complete the choice of the race tyre: we still have two or three solutions to check for the rear tyre."
Shinya Nakano: 5th - 1'30.716;
"Today's result just goes to show the progress made by Kawasaki and Bridgestone since the winter test here back in February. We've been able to run near the top of the timesheet from the start of free practice this morning, eventually finishing top five this afternoon. Overall, the bike and tyres are working well here, but we still have some small issues when I'm hard on the gas, especially out of the fast left-hander that leads onto the front straight. We will make some minor changes to the suspension settings overnight that should improve things in this area, and I'm confident that this will lead to an improvement in my lap times tomorrow. Already I have a good feeling about this weekend, and I'm looking forward to getting back on track tomorrow morning."