A weekend of close racing beckons at the Grand Prix of China as the first day of practice finished with the top fourteen MotoGP riders separated by less than a second in Shanghai today. Fiat Yamaha team-mates Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards were right in the mix and ended the day sixth and seventh fastest respectively in the combined standings, with Edwards just 0.2 seconds off the day's fastest time, set by John Hopkins.
With rain forecast for the afternoon this morning's Free Practice looked like being a crucial one and Rossi got things off to a strong start by finishing third fastest. Despite overcast skies and humid conditions however the rain stayed away and this afternoon's practice remained dry throughout, giving the riders further time to concentrate on set-up and tyre work with Michelin, conscious that bad weather could still arrive tomorrow to play havoc during Qualifying. Both riders were pleased with how quickly they were able to adapt their YZR-M1's to the demands of the stop-and-go circuit and will aim to make further improvements tomorrow, aware that every tiny advantage here could spell the key to success over their rivals.
Valentino Rossi - Position: 6th, Time: 2'01.390Laps: 47;
"I'm not so happy with sixth position but the difference from the top is very small, only 0.18 seconds, and so the actual time is not so bad. All the riders are very close and already you can see that it's going to be a hard battle. For this reason we have to find every millimetre of difference in every corner of the track in order to have an advantage and it's also going to be important to start from the front. We're working hard to get the bike in the best possible shape but I can already ride my M1 quite well. We are missing a little bit of top speed on the straight but we're obviously making it up in other areas of the track where our bike is strong, because our overall times are similar to our rivals. Of course we've also been working closely with Michelin on the tyres and tomorrow we have a few more things to try; a couple of possibilities remain for us and from them we will decide our final race tyre. We were lucky with the weather today because we were waiting for rain but now it looks like it will come tomorrow or on Sunday instead. It's a pity; of course it's always better to race in the dry but we have had success here before under the rain and I think our bike is fast in the wet this year so lets wait and see."
Colin Edwards - Position: 7th, Time: 2'01.409Laps: 46;
"I've got a small engine modification to try here but actually I only managed a few laps with it at the end of the second session today. Tomorrow we'll use it a bit more and see how we get on with that. Anyway my time wasn't too bad today; it's ridiculously close amongst the top group so it looks like we could see some pretty exciting racing this weekend! I feel pretty good overall - we made a small modification to the geometry this afternoon and that's improved things a bit and we've got a couple more ideas just to finally tweak the setting a little more tomorrow. As for the tyres, we've found something good but we've got a couple more things to check before we make our final decision about the race tyre. However what we can do tomorrow might well depend on the weather!"
Davide Brivio - Team Director;
"All the riders are very close today so it's going to be very important to really fine-tune the bike and try to find the perfect setting. We've got both Valentino and Colin in the first group of riders and so far the bike seems to be working quite well for both of them. Now we need to work on the final tyre selection for both riders. Today we were expecting some rain but luckily it didn't come and we were able to use all the practice time we had. Now it looks like tomorrow could be wet so the information we got today is going to be very important for us."
Loris Capirossi, 5th fastest, 2m 01.365s;
"We are all really, really close, it's a bit like a 125 session! This morning I didn't feel so good, we had a few problems but we were able to work very well on set-up, so a big thank you to my team for that. We chose a configuration with quite a lot of weight on the front end and I feel comfortable, so I can ride quite well. I've still got a few problems with the bumps here, so we are working on that to get the best out of the bike with the power delivery I prefer. We still have a few ideas to test tomorrow, but if it does rain and we can't try them out, we aren't so bad on race set-up, so I'm pretty confident for Sunday, which should be sunny, according to the forecast. The Bridgestone tyres are fine, the front is really good and the rear is pretty good too."
Casey Stoner, 8th fastest, 2m 01.460s;
"This morning we started with a set-up similar to Turkey and we didn't make any big changes during the day. We worked in order to better the settings step by step. So far we are not so bad, and tomorrow we have to focus on making the bike turn better and we need to find some more rear grip. In the afternoon we did a positive long run and we aren't worried about tyres, we are pretty comfortable from that point of view. It looks as if a lot of riders are able to go pretty fast out there, and we need to be able to stay amongst them. Generally, we're going not so bad, we are working to improve and we hope to make good progress tomorrow."
"First of all I want to say hats off to Bridgestone! We have been using really good tyres straight away; they have really done their research from last year and stepped right up to the plate! The Suzuki is also doing really good things. I knew it was going to be a track that would suit the 800, as Shanghai has some good flowing corners and we spend a lot of the time on the edge of the tyres and have to do quite a bit of late braking. At the moment I am just going from kerb to kerb and the mix of the bike and tyres makes it feel like I'm on rails! We have made some improvements over the day and we still have a couple of little bits to sort out tomorrow. Competition is really close again and we need to find every tenth of a second we can and keep our heads down. Regardless of what the weather brings tomorrow we'll be up for it and come out swinging!"
"It was alright out there today! China is probably the GP circuit that I know the least, because last year we had a lot of wet sessions and I only did three laps in the race before I crashed. It was good that we got a full dry day in today; I have managed to learn a lot about my riding around here and find my lines. The bike is working well and I can consistently do the lap-times. We do have a couple of problems in two corners and we hope we will be able to get them solved tomorrow and be on the pace. It's tight in the top 10, so I need to be up in there and make sure that I have a chance of a good race on Sunday."
Nicky Hayden - 2'01.346s, 45 laps 238 Km;
"The day went pretty smoothly and we tried some adjustments in the afternoon that I liked and improved the feeling from the machine.
I was able to get a pretty good direction on tyres and the set-up today and the team's working really hard, so thanks to those guys. It's early and we've still got some work to do but it felt pretty good to see P1 on my pit-board late in the session, especially with the way things have gone in the first few races. We certainly won't relax though because I was also quite fast on Friday morning in Jerez and it didn't turn into much, so hopefully this time I can give the team a result they deserve."
Dani Pedrosa - 2'01.333s, 45 laps 238 Km;
"This was a pretty normal Friday practice for us - trying tyres, working on the gear ratios and the machine set-up. It went pretty well and the weather was kind to us and stayed dry.
The lap times on the 800cc RC212V are a little slower than the 990cc machine but the power doesn't actually feel very different, even though the straight is very long here. The track conditions were OK today though it was a little bit misty in the morning. I think if it does not rain the surface will continue to get better as the track cleans up further. I was on pole position here last year so I hope it stays dry and we can put in a good performance in qualifying tomorrow."
Marco Melandri (2nd, 2'01"204):
"I'm satisfied with this result. We started out with the base we found during the test on the day after the race in Turkey and the feeling was good straight away. The bike is working well and I've rediscovered my feeling with the front. I'm happy because I'm having fun on the bike again. I'm also confident about the tyre choice. Today I tried the different options available to us and I'm hopeful of making the most of the qualifying tyre tomorrow to make sure of a good position on the grid. I have to stay focused and improve my own performance on the qualifying tyre. We're all very close so it looks like being a tight and combative race."
Toni Elias (14th,2'02"114):
"I can't say I'm happy. We still have a lot of work to do but we're not that far off where we need to be. Today we did some tests with the setting, which didn't give the desired results, so tomorrow we'll go back to the base from Turkey. We've worked out which is the best tyre for the race so we're saving that for tomorrow and Sunday. I just hope that practice is in the dry tomorrow so that we can continue working on the bike."
Alex Barros (2'02.051 - 19 laps):
"The first day of free practice at Shanghai did not start in a very promising way for us and I wasn't able to find the right feeling with my DUCATI GP7 , so I was worried. In the afternoon, the situation was better, we made some changes to my bike set-up that gave us important results in order to obtain good race pace and to allow me to ride with more confidence. As regard tires we used only one race tire, obtaining positive final results, with both rear and front. After today, I'm quite satisfied, but tomorrow we still have a lot of work to do: we need to improve the bike set-up and first of all to choose the right tire for my race. I'm confident and I hope to decrease my lap time further."
Alex Hofmann (2'01.177 - 16 laps):
"As my team-mate, my first free practice wasn't really good. I didn't really have a good feeling when riding the bike and the grip levels from the track were not very high which made it even harder. At the beginning we didn't understand exactly the real problem so we followed two different directions: the first didn't change anything, but the second one gave us positive results. My team worked very well; we modified bike setting and when I came back on track, I immediately felt the difference. Even if I only did 16 laps, I am satisfied and my laptime improved a lot."
Carlos Checa: 10th - 2'01.881;
"At this track with such a long and fast straight (1200 meters) we should be satisfied with this performance but we are still looking to improve. I need more side grip and rear stability and this will help increase my mid-corner and exit speed. It is no surprise we are down on top speed compared some rivals and Honda are fully aware of this, so our focus must be to work on our braking and turning performance. Hopefully the weather will stay constant so that we can make further progress tomorrow."
Shinya Nakano - Rider, KONICA MINOLTA Honda (40 laps - 2' 02.977");
"We tried hard to find a new setting this morning but it was not a good way to go and I didn't have a good feeling from the front tyre. In the afternoon we went back to a previous setting and it was an improvement, but thanks to the time we lost in the morning we couldn't improve things from there. Perhaps we changed too many things today, but now I know the track and I know we can improve in qualifying. We have two hours tomorrow and a warm-up session on Sunday before the race and it's the race that matters. Tomorrow we're going to put maximum effort in so we can improve our position."
Randy de Puniet; 11th - 2'01.896;
"We've had a successful start to the weekend, although my final position on the timesheet doesn't really reflect that. The new engine is a definite improvement, especially at the very top of the rev range where we've maybe lost out to the competition in the past. Now the top speed is good, although riders always want more, and I was happy to see us top five through the speed trap this morning. For most of today we've concentrated on finding a good suspension set-up for the race, and we will continue to work on this ahead of qualifying tomorrow. I'm pretty confident that, even with the set-up we have now, it's possible to improve my lap time further tomorrow ahead of the all-important qualifying session."
- 1. John Hopkins, Suzuki (USA) 2'1.204
- 2. Marco Melandri, Honda (ITA) 2'1.303
- 3. Daniel Pedrosa, Honda (ESP) 2'1.333
- 4. Nicky Hayden, Honda (USA) 2'1.346
- 5. Loris Capirossi, Ducati (ITA) 2'1.365
- 6. Valentino Rossi, Yamaha (ITA) 2'1.390
- 7. Colin Edwards, Yamaha (USA) 2'1.409
- 8. Casey Stoner, Ducati (AUS) 2'1.460
- 9. Alex Hofmann, Ducati (GER) 2'1.771
- 10. Carlos Checa, Honda (ESP) 2'1.881
- 11. Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki (FRA) 2'1.896
- 12. Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki (AUS) 2'1.991
- 13. Alex Barros, Ducati (BRA) 2'2.051
- 14. Toni Elias, Honda (ESP) 2'2.114
- 15. Makoto Tamada, Yamaha (JPN) 2'2.242
- 17. Sylvain Guintoli, Yamaha (FRA) 2'2.768