Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi today began preparations for the race that will decide the destiny of the MotoGP World Championship title as the first free practice sessions took place at Valencia. Fans have already begun to stream into the Ricardo Tormo circuit to witness the first exchanges of what promises to be another historic chapter in this sport's great history, with bright sunshine and warm autumn temperatures of 25ēC welcoming them to the eastern coast of Spain for the final round of the season.
In the morning session Rossi and his Camel Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards helped raise the heat with a series of quick laps that left the Italian on top of the time sheets, with the American sixth fastest, over lunch. However, the pace picked up considerably in the afternoon as a number of riders tested out their qualifying rubber ahead of tomorrow afternoon's grid decider and the pair slipped down the order, with Rossi ending the day seventh fastest overall and Edwards, who was unable to improve on his best lap from the morning, down in eleventh.
Loris Capirossi (Ducati) clocked the fastest time of the day with a lap of 1'32.220, ahead of Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) and Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki). Rossi and Edwards will look to close the gap as they work on further setting refinements to their YZR-M1 machines in the final free practice session tomorrow morning, before official qualifying gets underway at 2pm local time.
Valentino Rossi (7th - 1'33.274; 51 laps);
"We found a good setting this morning and we were quite fast from the start, but this afternoon some of the others made big improvements and caught up with us! This afternoon we tried a lot of different things and quite a few tyres, trying to find the best possible package for tomorrow and Sunday. Tyres are fundamental here and its very hard on the left side of the tyre especially. This track isn't so easy and it takes time to find the right setting, but the feeling from the bike is good and in general our race pace is quite fast so we're not really worried. We've got one or two things to improve, especially in a couple of the hard braking areas, but I think if we can make just a couple of improvements then we will be able to fight at the top. For now we will stay calm and focused and tomorrow things will be clearer."
Colin Edwards (11th - 1'33.545; 39 laps);
"It's okay, everything is under control! Our new breakthrough, 'miracle' setting that we found in Motegi needed a few tweaks before it was perfect for Estoril and here it's the same story. In fact we need to make a few small changes back towards the Motegi setting in order to have it perfect for this track. Everything we're learning and understanding here, especially with the setting, is going to be really valuable next year, even with the new bike, so that's quite exciting. We understand why it was perfect in Portugal and why we've got some problems here, so there's no need to panic. We'll make some changes tonight and I'm confident that we'll be back up there tomorrow."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"With Valentino we worked a lot today on many different things. We're still trying to fine tune the setting and select the right tyres but anyway the situation is not so bad. Colin this morning was quite fast but now we need to look at what happened this afternoon because he couldn't improve on that time. We've got some work to get through tonight to see how we can improve with him but it seems his team understands what they need to do and I am sure they will be able to bring everything together for tomorrow. It's not a perfect start but we're relaxed, it's only Friday and we have all of Saturday to improve."
Loris Capirossi, Ducati Marlboro Team, 1st, 1m 32.220s;
"I'm very happy because we've worked very well today - the team is being very reactive. We totally changed the set-up for this afternoon, so the bike is now pretty competitive here. We have learned so much this season, understanding that the Desmosedici's settings needs very careful attention to work at each track. And everything we have learned this year will be crucial for the future because the GP7 chassis is very similar to the GP6 chassis. I'm happy with the new race tyres that Bridgestone have brought here. I did a run of 15 laps on the same tyres, setting the fastest pace of the day in race trim without any endurance worries. This season I have tried many different qualifying tyres and sometimes it's easy to lose your way with qualifiers, so it was good to test one today, even though it wasn't exactly what I wanted for this track. I'm very happy to have Troy as my team-mate here and I'm hoping to end the season as well as I can."
Nicky Hayden: "The bike's working pretty good and I'm having fun. It wasn't a bad start but I want to be fastest outright here in every session and every lap so I'm not totally satisfied with the day. I don't want get into any of that "fastest Michelin" or "fastest race tyre" stuff and I'd have liked to have got into the 1m 32s today on race tyres. There are a few guys in front of us going quick so I definitely need to find some time. I'm having fun this weekend and my team's doing an awesome job - Pete and the boys are really behind me and are going to ride to the end with me. Qualifying's going to be huge tomorrow so I've really got to be on that front row - we'll see what happens. There are a lot of guys going fast and not a lot separates them - a couple of tenths is a lot around here and it's a hard place to pass. I'll just try my hardest this weekend and see what the big guy's got planned."
Dani Pedrosa: "Today we had a normal first day of practice. This afternoon we tried many different set-ups for the bike and we found some things we liked and some things that didn't work so well, so we've found the right direction to take for tomorrow. It's a very different track on the RCV compared with a 250cc bike - the MotoGP bike feels much heavier changing direction and in the many small straights you go much faster into the next corner which takes some getting used to. This is a very important race as everybody knows, so me and the team will try to do the maximum we can. I will try to do my job and also for sure we have to help Nicky to do it. It's going to be a very exciting weekend with all the Spanish fans supporting us and being the last race of the season it's important for everyone."
"I was happy this morning to come to a circuit that I knew. I was able to go straight out and get into a good rhythm because I knew which way the track was going and I was able to follow the right lines. It felt really comfortable this morning but the track temperature certainly increased this afternoon. We made some changes to the bike that definitely improved it and we have tried quite a few tyres for Bridgestone. We found a tyre this afternoon that works pretty good and we will test that further to make sure that it will last race distance. I am quite happy with everything today and will certainly be looking to go a bit quicker tomorrow!"
Marco Melandri: (1'33"556, 11th): "I am not satisfied because I can't
find the feeling with the bike that will allow me to ride comfortably. I
want a good finish to the season so my only focus now is to work hard
with my mechanics and make sure we do the right job tomorrow."
Toni Elias: (1'33"954, 15th) "I can't be happy with the result today but
I am still confident about my chances on Sunday. The first day is
usually difficult for us but we have plenty of room to improve and I
hope we can solve some of the problems tomorrow. We have to Cork hard on
the chassis and suspension configuration but I have a good team behind
me and that gives me optimism for Sunday."
"I have been struggling a bit this afternoon to find the best grip for the bike, it's something that we will be working on tomorrow and we have some different tyres that we will be trying. That's really the main thing to concentrate on at the moment - we need to find that extra edge grip because that is really important round here. Other than that we have worked pretty hard all day and we have a plan of what we want to do tomorrow, so we will be coming out and be ready to go for it.
Troy Bayliss, Ducati Marlboro Team, 10th fastest, 1m 33.433s;
"I'm very happy with the start I've had, considering this is my first time on Bridgestones. I haven't used a qualifier yet, so I'm doing okay. When I first went out the bike felt quite a bit different to the Superbike but after a couple of laps it felt like I've been on this bike before. Of course, a few things have changed since 2004, but it wasn't long before I felt reasonably good on it but a little bit away from perfect. Ernie (Ernesto Marinelli, Bayliss' Superbike crew chief) and myself don't know the Bridgestones, what temperature the front works best at and so on but we've got a few got a few good ideas to test tomorrow. Loris made a couple of changes this afternoon that really helped him, so now we know what to do. With Sete injured it made sense for me to come here, I want to do a good job but I'll just do what I can do."
"Overall it has been a good day, especially this afternoon when I concentrated on tyre
testing for the race and did not worry about chasing a fast time. I struggled a little in the first
session, the front was a running wide a little and I had some rear grip problems on the left side. After
some small changes the bike improved in the afternoon and I just concentrated on tyre testing.
Some of the left corners here don't have a lot of grip so I am looking for the best tyre choice --
some tyres are working good on left side but not the right, and vice versa".
Randy de Puniet: 2nd - 1'32.408;
"Today was a good start to the final race weekend of the season. I felt comfortable on the bike straight away this morning, and this meant we were able to get on with the job of refining the set-up without having to work through any problems first. This afternoon we worked through some of the tyre options that Bridgestone have available, with very positive results. Set-up and tyre choice are critical here, as it's a long race and tyre performance will inevitably drop off by the halfway point. With this in mind, we have tried to find a good balance with the bike, and on the tyre we think we will use on Sunday my lap times were consistent, even after a long run. Qualifying high up the grid is also important, as this is a difficult track on which to pass. For this reason we tried a qualifier last thing this afternoon, and I was quite pleased with the lap time, although I still think there's more to come from the qualifying tyre tomorrow."
Carlos Checa (15th, 1'33.860; 53 laps);
"It hasn't been a frustrating day but it has been very hard work. This afternoon we couldn't find the right combination with grip and we also had a lot of chattering. We have been using one bike then the other, testing different rear tyres but we haven't found good performance especially with the side grip. Sometimes it hasn't been so bad but then we get some big chatter in one bike very badly but in my other bike we have a setting to try and stop the chatter.
Today is one of those days where you hit the same wall and can't jump over it. We need to change something else to try and stop this chatter and improve the side grip but honestly at the moment I can't find that next step that we need to move forward. But like this team has been doing all year we have some ideas to try tomorrow and Dunlop have some other combinations with rear tyre that we will try tomorrow to see if this can give us something better.
We also tried a different front rim size to try and eliminate our problems but the tyre worked quite different this afternoon. I don't know if it was the rim or the fact that the track had a lot higher temperature but I'm sure we will find something tomorrow as we have already been working on some ideas.
Although many others tried qualifying tyres it didn't make sense for us to use one. We have to improve the pace to be more consistent and faster with the race tyre. It is my last race with this team and I am determined to give a good result for the team as they have been working very hard all year to improve the situation we are in. I thi k we all have done a very good job to get the Dunlop tyres to where we are now but of course not every day is going to be perfect so we will work on making these improvements for tomorrow.
James Ellison (16th1'34.323; 51 laps);
"We had a slow start this morning as we had a lot of changes with setup to find a balance with the bike and tried a few new tyres to find a direction for this afternoon which obviously we did as straight out of the box we were a lot better than we were this morning but, to be honest it seems all the Dunlop runners are struggling to find the right combination of tyres. The ingredients are there in each tyre. A certain area of one is good and then there are the same things in other tyres that are goods so it's a case of all getting together and finding the one that is going to work this weekend because the times are so close. I am very happy to be right with Carlos. It's probably the closest since Brno so in that respect I'm happy but we still have along way to go. I'm sure Carlos isn't too happy so the only way is moving forward. The times are so close so its not like taking big chunks out of a lap time we're looking for its just fine-tuning with the tyres and the balance of the bike.
Shinya Nakano: 9th - 1'33.394;
"We made some changes to the bike after this morning's practice session, which gave us some improvement this afternoon, but we still have some work to do on the set-up. At the moment it seems I have a small problem at each corner - in some the rear is spinning and sliding, and in others there is some front-end chatter - but I don't think we're too far off a good set-up on the bike, and I'm sure some small adjustments tonight will lead to further improvements ahead of practice and qualifying tomorrow. Our tyre situation for the race looks pretty good. We went harder and harder with the rear compound this afternoon, but I finally found a tyre that I'm happy will work well in Sunday's race. Overall, it's been a pretty positive start to the weekend."
Makoto Tamada - Konica Minolta Honda Rider (13° - 1'33.689");
"Here at Valencia we have many references and therefore my Honda RC211V was effective since this morning's practice session. The track conditions were really favourable and then we could immediately start with the race tires choice."
- 1. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 1'32.220
- 2. Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 1'32.408
- 3. Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 1'32.786
- 4. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 1'33.019
- 5. Casey Stoner, Honda (AUS) 1'33.080
- 6. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1'33.254
- 7. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1'33.274
- 8. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1'33.369
- 9. Shinya Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) 1'33.394
- 10. Troy Bayliss, Ducati (AUS) 1'33.433
- 11. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1'33.556
- 12. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1'33.622
- 13. Makato Tamada, Honda (JPN) 1'33.689
- 14. Kenny Roberts, Team Robert KR (USA) 1'33.795
- 15. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 1'33.954
- 16. Carlos Checa, Yamaha (ESP) 1'33.967
- 17. James Ellison, Yamaha (GBR) 1'34.323