Marco clocks the fastest time with Toni just 0.499 secs behind team Honda Gresini made an ideal start to proceedings in the Grand Prix of France at the legendary circuit of Le Mans, host this weekend to the fifth round of the 2007 MotoGP World Championship.
Marco Melandri, winner of this very race last season, started in perfect fashion and after lapping well in the morning free practice he went on to clock the fastest time overall in the afternoon. The Italian was delighted with the performance of his bike, in particular the handling, and is confident about his chances in Sunday's race.
It was also a good day for Toni Elias, who was less than half a second behind the pace of his team-mate in seventh place. The Spaniard is happy with the base setting the team have found today and is looking forward to improving his performance tomorrow.
The weather forecast is typically unpredictable here and a few raindrops fell throughout today, making for changeable track conditions.
Marco Melandri (1st, 1'35"319):
"I'm satisfied with this result. The team prepared a good base setting for the bike and my feeling has been really positive right from this morning. We've improved the feeling with the front, thanks to the work we've done with the forks and the new front tyre Bridegestone have brought here. The handling of the bike is superb and that is important at a circuit with so much hard braking. I'm very happy with the tyres. Tomorrow I'll try and improve our performance on a qualifying tyre because my target is to qualify on the front two rows and fight for the podium."
Casey Stoner, 6th fastest, 1m35.759s;
"The track's not in the best condition but the lap times we are doing are pretty much on a par with the 990s, and considering this is an acceleration track I think the 800s are doing exceptionally well. We expected this circuit to be a little more difficult but our settings seem pretty good at the moment. We're doing the best job we can to get the bike to hook up out of the turns and Bridgestone are doing an excellent job as well. We already smoothed down the rear suspension because I was having a few pumping problems and we also seem to have solved the braking problems we had this morning. Now we just need to make some little tweaks in the front and get a bit more traction in the rear. I went out at the start of this afternoon's session with tyres that had already done six or seven laps and I did race distance no problem. If it's really hot we've got another set of harder tyres, but the tyres we've got for these conditions are doing race distance absolutely no dramas, so we're looking pretty safe again."
Colin Edwards - Position: 4th Time: 1'35.626 Laps: 51;
"I think we've made a good start here today. We made some small adjustments to the bike setting and generally stiffened it up a bit in order to make it a little bit more responsive at this track and it seems to have worked. The bike's definitely feeling pretty good at the end of day one. The tyre rules are once again making things a little difficult; we've found a good tyre which we added onto our selection at the last minute last night and I think I did my best lap on that this afternoon after quite a lot of laps! We'll check it again tomorrow but if the conditions don't change then it looks like being the number one choice for my race tyre. I had a bit of a problem this afternoon when a bee somehow flew into my boot! I'd literally just passed the entrance to pit lane when I realised so I had to get round a whole lap with it in there. It stung me a couple of times in my foot but I think I'll survive...! Anyway, the bike feels good, we've made a strong start and hopefully we can carry on like this tomorrow."
Valentino Rossi - Position: 7th Time: 1'35.770 Laps: 51;
"This morning things were going okay but this afternoon we ran into a few problems and we weren't able to improve our situation much. The tyre rule isn't great for us here and we haven't yet found the right tyre from our selection, however we've gathered a lot of data today so hopefully we can make some changes tomorrow to get our package working better. I think that we didn't find exactly the right direction today with regards to the setting; this is quite a strange track and at the moment I can't ride the bike how I want to. I have a big score to settle here after what happened last year so we've got to keep focused and work at 100% in order to be in the best shape for a battle on Sunday. We need to close the gap to the others tomorrow. Colin is a bit faster than me and he showed the bike is working quite well, so hopefully we can study the data we have and come up with a new direction for tomorrow."
Loris Capirossi, 11th fastest, 1m 36.139s;
"We solved the few little problems we had this morning and started this afternoon with a better set-up. We then made a few more minor adjustments during the second session and my last run was quite fast. Unfortunately I was only able to do a couple of laps before it started raining, but we know that we have found the right direction and that's what matters for the rest of the weekend. We tried just one rear tyre today and we have two more to test, so I think it's possible we can also improve that part of the bike. Above all we need to improve our settings for the last part of the track because I'm still slow in the final split. Anyway, I feel good and confident enough for the next two days."
Nicky Hayden - 1'35.908s, 52 laps, 217 Km;
"This morning went well and the feeling from the machine was pretty good. Coming out of the gate the bike was reasonably close to where we need it to be and the Michelin tyres were working really well too.
I was able to put in some consistent laps and third was a fairly good place to finish the session. The afternoon was a blip on the radar we didn't really need though. I went out with the same tyres as the morning to try to get some more laps on them and just lost the front in the slow corner at Turn 6 - the front just let go and I was down with no big warning. After that I was just getting the feeling back at the front when it started to rain at the end of the session. It was a really easy fall though, and I don't think I've caused the boys too much work on the bike. I quite enjoyed the morning session so we'll come back in here tomorrow and aim to get right back on the pace."
Dani Pedrosa - 1'35.319s, 55 laps, 264 Km;
"Today we began the set-up work with the new 800cc machine at this circuit and the practice sessions went quite well. I was able to set the fastest time this morning and was second fastest in the afternoon which is not so bad, and I also put in some longer runs with a reasonably consistent pace.
The rain cut short the afternoon session but I think we were lucky to get nearly two dry hours and this has helped us to work towards a good dry set-up. So we'll just hope that the weather stays fine for the next two days as well. I've tried a modified exhaust system today which helps with the noise from the bike and also alters the engine character, and we'll continue to evaluate this tomorrow. I hope to get a good qualifying position to give me the best chance of a clean start in the race."
Toni Elias (7th,1'35"818):
"I'm happy with the job we've done today at a circuit where we had so many problems last year. Seventh place is a good result considering how close we are to the front. There is room to improve so we'll keep working hard tomorrow. The tyres are working really well."
Carlos Checa; Third - 1'35.498;
"Practice went very well today and like Jerez I am competitive with the times very close. In braking and on the short straights the Honda has raised our expectations here, and today our tyre choice was also very good. I still have one tyre option to test tomorrow and just refine the set-up, perhaps find some more front-end contact. At this track there are overtaking opportunities on the brakes if you can be close to the bike in front. At the end of the session I stayed out in the light rain, just to get a feeling for the track in these conditions."
"It's definitely been a work day! We've gone through a lot of things, trying to improve all the time. The bike wasn't set-up as well from the start as it was in China, so we have had to work a bit to get the bike how we need it to be. The whole crew have worked hard today and we made big steps forward. We are still looking to make things a bit better and I also have to work on my riding as I have to get a couple of lines sorted. Hopefully we'll get a good night's sleep and come out tomorrow and ride as hard as we can!"
"After the poor weather here this week we have been quite lucky today to get almost a full dry day. The last 15 minutes of the second session was a bit wet, which was unfortunate as we were progressing really well with the bike. We've made pretty big steps and things are certainly heading in the right direction. We still need to find that bit more, but I'm sure that tomorrow we will get even better!"
Alex Barros (1'36.044):
"I'm quite satisfied after this opening day at the Le Mans Circuit because we have found a good base. Today we worked on different bike's geometries in order to develop the best for my riding style. We also made some tire tests that have given us positive results; this is especially important because now we have a lot of options for the race. The only problem we have at the moment is my lap time, I have to lower it, but I'm sure that we have a good possibility to improve. Because of the weather conditions today, the track wasn't very good, and in different conditions, I am sure to be faster, so I am anyway confident heading into tomorrow."
Alex Hofmann (1'37.751):
"This is a day to forget! In the morning I wasn't able to find the right feeling with my Desmosedici, so before the afternoon session we changed bike set-up, but unfortunately I fell after my first lap and I couldn't continue with the same bike. For this reason we were n ot able to find the right race set-up. I hope to do achieve this tomorrow before the qualifying session in order to obtain the best possible position on the starting grid."
Randy de Puniet, Position: 12th - Best Lap: 1'36.352;
"The first day in Le Mans hasn't been easy as we've struggled a lot with the rear. It moves a lot, exiting corners and it was difficult to change direction. I can't say I'm unhappy, though I'm not confident. My confidence in the bike set up improved into the afternoon session but we need to keep progressing tomorrow, mainly in T4 where I've been losing a lot of time. However, I'm really happy with the race tyres. I spent the whole session this morning with the same set and I did my best lap time in my last lap. I used a new set of the same spec in the afternoon and the conclusion was the same. The performance and consistency are very good; very positive for the race. The weather wasn't wonderful but the forecasters predict good conditions for tomorrow. We all hope they aren't wrong!"
Fonsi Nieto, Position: 19th - Best Lap: 1'38.827;
"This morning, I was so excited to get on the Kawasaki MotoGP bike for the first time. The experience of riding the 800cc Ninja ZX-RR has been amazing and I've had a lot of fun, although we still have a lot of work to do tomorrow. Following the team's advice, I decided to take it easy as everything was new to me. I just wanted to get used to the bike and the tyres without rushing, to avoid making any mistakes. The biggest differences and challenges for me today have been the difference in weight, the carbon brakes and the tyres. I don't have all the confidence necessary to change direction, I need to improve my braking to maintain a good corner speed and also to gain some confidence in the front tyre as well. The weather conditions didn't help us much and, consequently, my lap times have been quite slow but there is plenty of room for improvement tomorrow. The team, and particularly having Fiorenzo Fanali by my side, helps me a lot and I'm sure tomorrow will be much better."
Shinya Nakano - Rider, KONICA MINOLTA Honda (50 laps - 1' 36.855");
"The new front tyres seem better, as the contact feeling from the front has improved, which is what I'm looking for. The entry to the corner is better, but I still have same problem with the bike not turning quickly enough and with enough grip. We have some ideas on how to improve this, so we will try some different front and rear suspension settings tomorrow morning. We are a little disappointed as the last ten minutes were going to be important this afternoon and I had fresh tyres on, but we couldn't try them. I'm hopeful of tomorrow as the other Hondas are going well, so if we can find a good set up I am positive for a good grid position."
- 1. Marco Melandri (ITA) Honda Gresini 1'35.319
- 2. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team +0.148
- 3. Carlos Checa (SPA) Honda LCR +0.179
- 4. Colin Edwards (USA) Yamaha Factory Racing +0.307
- 5. John Hopkins (USA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +0.427
- 6. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team +0.440
- 7. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Yamaha Factory Racing +0.451
- 8. Toni Elias (SPA) Honda Gresini +0.499
- 9. Nicky Hayden (USA) Repsol Honda Team +0.589
- 10. Alex Barros (BRA) Pramac d'Antin Ducati +0.725
- 11. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Ducati Marlboro Team +0.820
- 12. Randy De Puniet (FRA) Kawasaki Racing Team +1.033