After five days of intense physiotherapy on cracked bones in his right wrist and left foot, Camel Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi returned to MotoGP action for the first true test of his fitness since the Dutch TT in today's free practice sessions for the British Grand Prix. Rossi took to the Donington Park circuit with heavy strapping on his wrist but was able to complete 43 laps over the two sessions, running consistently at the top end of the timing screens before settling for the seventh fastest lap overall.
With Rossi focusing on adapting the bike both to the demands of the circuit and the diminishing limitations of his physical condition, his team-mate Colin Edwards worked diligently beside him on the set-up of his own YZR-M1 machine. With his last-corner battle for victory at Assen still fresh in the mind, today represented a perfect opportunity for the Texan to turn the page and focus on another podium assault in Sunday's ninth round of the season. Edwards lapped fourth fastest in the morning session and slipped to sixth in the afternoon, but after completing 53 laps he has plenty of crucial data to work from ahead of tomorrow's single qualifying session.
Colin Edwards (6th - 1'29.379; 53 laps);
"To be honest my pace today wasn't quite as good as I had expected but we're still looking for a few things from the set-up that we'll work on tomorrow. We had a couple of problems today but by the end of the second session it was starting to come. Basically we need to get it turning into the corners a little better and there are some sections of the track where we're getting some vibrations, but it is nothing major. We played around with the tyres a little today but we've got plenty still to do and need to get our heads down in the morning before chasing a lap time in qualifying."
Valentino Rossi (7th - 1'29.416; 43 laps);
"I'm happy to be riding again and enjoying myself on the bike. Assen was a very tough weekend for me but my physiotherapist has done a good job and I feel better, although still not at 100%. I still have some pain, especially under braking, but the mobility is much better and this is important. There are three hard braking areas at this track where I am struggling and to be honest I don't know how this will be in the race; I was losing strength towards the end of the afternoon session today and this could be a problem. As far as the lap time is concerned we need to make up a few tenths in certain areas but I think we can do this with a few changes to the bike. I will get some more treatment tonight and keep some ice on my wrist and we will see tomorrow."
Davide Brivio - Camel Yamaha Team Director;
"We're still working with both riders on the setting of the bike and it has been good to have a 'normal' first day - gathering data without anything spectacular happening and no dramas to worry about either. The good news is that Valentino can ride without too much pain or discomfort and he is trying his best to manage his condition and set fast laps. We know we have to be faster but we are still fine-tuning the set-up and have plenty of room for improvement tomorrow. The only question mark is how Valentino can hold up over the course of a race but we can't know that until Sunday. We'll just set up the bike and let the Clinica Mobile set up the rider!"
The British Grand Prix at the historic Donington Park circuit is the third race in successive weekends for the MotoGP competitors and while it may be tiring, it has resulted in a steady progress of improved performances for the French Tech 3 Yamaha Team.
Dani Pedrosa: "It went pretty well today and we had a good day of practice. The weather was good, it was warm and the Michelins were working well so I'm happy with how it's gone. I'm at the top of the times today but I'm not reading too much into this yet. Tomorrow will be important because we'll learn more about the race tyre choice and we also need to do a good job in qualifying because the times at this track are so close - this is going to be critical for a good race. It's my first time on a MotoGP at Donington and the RC211V feels very powerful here, especially on the last part of the track. Plus we spend a lot of time braking which is hard for the shoulders and arms - it's pretty tiring. Still, I'm looking forward to the rest of the weekend."
Nicky Hayden: "We were trying a new chassis today and we were testing a few different things on each bike. One felt a lot better on the front and the other felt better on the rear, so hopefully tomorrow we can combine the settings and we'll be a lot closer. We closed the gap from this morning's session which is good, though we haven't started off the first day as fast as we'd have liked again so we've still got some work to do here. It's not that easy though - it's always a compromise so we'll come in here tomorrow and try to make a big step. Half a second is quite a lot, and qualifying tomorrow is going to be really important, so we'll see what we do."
Carlos Checa's overall lap times continue to get closer to the leaders and he is 12th fastest after the opening two free practices and in front of factory riders Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki), Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) and Alex Hoffman (Ducati). At present less than a second separates the top 13 riders. His team mate, James Ellison, is also continuing down his own development path with the Tech 3 Yamaha and a new generation of Dunlop tyres to be in 17th position at his home race.
Carlos Checa (12th, 1'29.842, 48 laps);
"This track is quite difficult as it is very different from the beginning to the end and we seem to be having our biggest problems at the end of the lap. We have been testing a few different rear tyres and by the end of the session I think we have found a pretty good pace to work on. On the bike we started the day using pretty standard base settings like we used in Assen but it is not working here so we will have to be making a few changes and try something a bit different.
We have to get some more weight over the front. It is getting better but it is still not enough as it is difficult to get it to steer quick enough. We have some things to try tomorrow and I am quite confident that we can improve. It is also a little hard having different tyres to test as we have to keep the same bike settings so we can tell the difference in the tyres.
James Ellison (17th 1'31.306, 49 laps);
"We have made a few more changes to the frame as we continue to make the bike better to ride but today I spent all of my time on it to compare it to the bike that I have really settled into. It has given us a few things to work on and a new direction to go, to compare to what I found at Barcelona and Assen and the feeling I'm getting from my preferred bike. I'm feeling pretty good after the crash I had last week. I thought my ankle might play up a bit but while I'm on the bike I'm fine, it's only when I rest and start to think about it that I feel anything.
We have certainly learnt a few things today. My aim was to get into the 1'30 second bracket. We didn't get quite there but we were working on other things so I can't be too disappointed. I improved my morning time by well over a second so no doubt we will be making a few changes overnight to get an even quicker time and move up the grid like we did last week.
Herve Poncharal - Tech3 Yamaha Team Director;
"This is a very special weekend for many reasons for the Tech 3 Yamaha Team. The first one is that it is the third race in just over two weeks so I think everyone is feeling a little tired. The second reason is that it is the home Grand Prix for James and also for Dunlop our tyre supplier and major partner this year. The entire team, including Carlos and James, went to visit the Dunlop facility in Birmingham on Tuesday and we were all quite impressed by what we saw with the factory and the speed at what they're putting into MotoGP tyre development. It was good for all of us to see how difficult their mission is and how much they are involved in the project. We have quite a few Japanese here from Dunlop this weekend to get a feel for the paddock and this will no doubt help things as well. This is good as we haven't seen this since the winter test and confirms to the team the efforts that Dunlop are endeavouring to accomplish with this MotoGP project.
It's been a good day in practice as well as Carlos is within 0.8 sec of the fastest lap time and both riders took a second of their morning's time. We are losing most of our time in the fourth split at the end of the lap so we have to discover why this is happening because in the other three splits we are less than a third of a second off the leading riders. So far we are quite happy. We have been able to do quite a few laps and the weather looks very good for the weekend so -unlike other races - it will allow us to use all the time possible to work.
James seems to be having a bit of difficulty understanding the bike during the sessions but I'm sure we have found the reasons now after speaking with him and he will have a much better time tomorrow. We really want him to do well in his home grand prix.
Marco Melandri (4th, 1'29"196):
"I'm happy because despite still
suffering from injuries I picked up in Barcelona I have been fast. I'm
suffering but the pain is now limited to the right side of my body - the
collarbone, arm and wrist. Since Assen the pain has actually got worse
and the characteristics of this track don't help. I'm really finding it
hard in the strong braking zones. I also broke my right hand here two
years ago and it still hurts so despite all that I am happy with my
performance. The bike is working well and tomorrow I'll try and reserve
some energy for Sunday's race."
Michel Fabrizio (16th, 1'30"762):
"I am very satisfied after the first
day of practice. I took things easy and just got to know the bike and
the way it behaves. I really enjoyed riding the fast part of the track
and to do it on a bike like this is an incredible feeling."
Chris Vermeulen (P12, 1'30.799, 58 laps) used both sessions to re-acquaint himself with the Donington circuit - a track he hasn't ridden at since 2001 - and concentrated on dialling in the best suspension set-up in preparation for Sunday and worked on finding the correct Bridgestone tyres for the 30 lap race.
Today's sessions were held in dry and warm conditions with track surface temperatures hitting 44°C in the afternoon. Today's fastest time was set by Spaniard Dani Pedrosa on his factory Honda. Rizla Suzuki MotoGP has one more practice session on Saturday morning followed by an hour's qualifying in the afternoon. Round nine of the MotoGP World Championship gets underway at 13.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT) on Sunday 2nd July.
"It was a good session. We are trying to get the best tyre that we can for Sunday and working well with Bridgestone to come up with the best solution. The bike is coming along really well and the guys are working very hard and all in all everything seems good at the moment. We still have a few things to work on tomorrow to get a better level of consistency but we are really looking forward to the challenge and I'm sure it's going to be fun!"
Shinya Nakano: 5th - 1'29.275;
"We've been able to carry the momentum over from Assen to Donington, and I'm satisfied with my position in practice today. Our main focus today has been on rear tyre testing, to identify a race tyre for Sunday. We have tried three different rear slicks in the bike today, and it looks like we will have to go for a harder compound than we originally predicted, because the temperature is higher than we were expecting here at Donington. Today I did many laps, and I managed to find a good rhythm with the bike very quickly, especially around the stop start section that includes the Melbourne Hairpin, where it's very easy to lose valuable time. So, overall I'm happy with what we've achieved today, but I think we can improve further tomorrow."
Randy de Puniet: 14th - 1'30.342;
"Today was difficult because I had some problems with front-end chatter throughout practice that we couldn't seem to dial out, and this made it almost impossible to lap consistently at a reasonable pace during both practice sessions. We will look again at the problem overnight, using the data from the bike, and I'm confident that the team will find a solution and we'll be back on the pace tomorrow."
Makoto Tamada - Konica Monolta Honda Rider (11° - 1'29.806");
"Today I'm quite happy because the setting modifications done after the first free practice hour, this afternoon my feeling was better and I could easily turn on the 1'29" pace. Tomorrow, we will be able to focus on tyres tests to make the best choice for the race. The rear tyre, in particular, will have to be evaluated very well as today was very hot and high temperatures are expected for the entire week end."
Ivan Silva #22 (18th - 1'32.524):
"I'm quite happy. We kept the same gap we had from the first riders at Assen. Besides, we must consider I never had seen this track before. The setting of the motorcycle seems good and the material Dunlop supplied us here is better than the one we had in Holland. For the moment, I find it difficult to get a good rhythm alone, surely because of the complicated characteristics of this track, as things immediately goes better when I follow some rider. Tomorrow, we will have more time to practice, I will get more used to the circuit and my aim is to get a good rhythm by myself".
Jose Luis Cardoso #30 (19th - 1'32.576):
"Today, we made a good job, we concentrated ourselves on the race tyres and I can say there have been improvements, their performance is more constant and we have a better rhythm. Tomorrow, we will test other tyres and we will work to find an optimal setting for the motorcycle. I'm sure that everything will go in a better way, I like this track very much, it's very different from the 500 with which I raced here the last time".
- 1. D. Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 1' 28.970
- 2. J. Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 1' 29.025
- 3. C. Stoner, Honda (AUS) 1' 29.064
- 4. M. Melandri, Honda (ITA) 1' 29.196
- 5. S. Nakano, Kawasaki (JPN) 1' 29.275
- 6. C. Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 1' 29.379
- 7. V. Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 1' 29.416
- 8. K. Roberts, Team Roberts KR (USA) 1' 29.544
- 9. N. Hayden, Honda (USA) 1' 29.557
- 10. M. Tamada, Honda (JPN) 1' 29.806
- 11. C. Checa, Yamaha (ESP) 1' 29.842
- 12. C. Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 1' 29.941
- 13. R. De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 1' 30.342
- 14. A. Hofmann, Ducati (GER) 1' 30.387
- 15. M. Fabrizio, Honda (ITA) 1' 30.762
- 16. J. Ellison, Yamaha (GBR) 1' 31.306