The first European race of the season got off to a slightly shaky start for Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards today, with the Fiat Yamaha Team riders struggling for rear grip at the Andalucian circuit of Jerez. The Italian and the American finished the day in sixth and ninth respectively and the weekend promises to be a close battle, with the top 12 riders all within half a second of each other after two free practice sessions.
Despite clear skies and sunshine, this morning's first practice was run in cold temperatures and, with the track temperature reaching a maximum of only 15 degrees, the conditions did not provide the riders with much chance to really get to grips with bike and tyre set-up. This afternoon was considerably warmer and both Rossi and Edwards improved their times and their general race-pace, but neither rider was able to find the perfect tyre combination with the current setting on their M1 and will hope to make considerable improvements tomorrow. The best time of the day was recorded by Honda rider and Spanish favourite Carlos Checa, who set a best lap of 1'40.851.
Valentino Rossi, Position: 6th; Time: 1'41.198, Laps: 52;
"Today was quite difficult for us, compared to how we began in Qatar! Unfortunately the situation with the tyre is not perfect, we don't have enough grip and the problem is made worse because the condition of the track isn't so good either. We have a lot less grip than we had at the test here so now we need to work more on the setting of the bike in order to improve the grip with the tyres we have. This morning the problem was a lot worse and we were quite worried after the first session, but we've worked very hard today and the situation this afternoon is a lot better. Anyway we're not that far away at the end of the day, only sixth, and all the riders are very close together so I don't think we need to worry yet. It's clear that some of our rivals are very strong and it's going to be a hard battle, so we need to make the most of the time we have left. I hope that the track grip will improve tomorrow as more rubber is laid down and I hope it will also be a little bit warmer in the morning so we can work properly during free practice."
Colin Edwards, Position: 9th; Time: 1'41.305, Laps: 52;
"We've definitely got a little bit of a problem to deal with and I can't say we're in the same shape we were in at this stage of the Qatar race! We know what tyre worked here at the test and the bike is basically the same, with a few improvements, but the conditions here today are pretty different and it seems things aren't quite working the way we expected. The main problem is that we can't get the rear to hold on and we're just sliding around a bit. It's disappointing because at the test here our grip and our speed through the corners was our best thing, but here it seems we've lost that a bit and we're not entirely sure why at the moment! We've tried quite a few different tyres but we couldn't find something that worked perfectly today. We're obviously restricted with our tyre choice because of the new rules, so now we're going to need to make some changes to the bike in order to get it to work with what we've got. The bike feels great and I'm happy with it, it's just a matter of grip. We've got a lot of ideas and we'll have a good chat about it tonight and start again in the morning. I am sure we'll be able to come up with something!"
Davide Brivio - Team Director;
"Compared to the test we have a lot less grip so now we have to work at 100% to find a way to make the bike work with the tyres we've got. The team and riders are working hard together to find the right combination between the elements and tomorrow we will keep going. Obviously the situation isn't perfect and we need to come up with some good ideas as at the moment we're not in the best race-shape, but we're confident we can make some big improvements tomorrow. This morning was very cold and it was difficult to work properly like that so really we only had the afternoon. Let's hope it's warmer tomorrow!"
Checa: 1st - 1'40.851;
"Being at the front is always a good feeling but I'm not getting carried away, the times are very close. Since the Qatar race, the changes to the front-end have made the bike comfortable on braking and turn-in, a much more positive feeling. My first target tomorrow is to complete the tyre testing for the race, we have two good options, and secondly to improve my qualifying performance where we had some problems in Qatar. I'm feeling good for my home race."
Nicky Hayden - 1'41.536s, 53 laps; 234 Km;
"This morning it was definitely encouraging to be up front at the sharp end and it was fun to be riding back here at Jerez. This afternoon we didn't exactly go backwards but we didn't go forward as much as I'd have liked - and everybody else went quite a lot faster.
We're definitely a lot closer that we were at the first race in Qatar and I've got a lot better feeling on the bike than I did at the first race. Also, the bike seems to be running quite a lot smoother here in the cooler conditions. I just need to try to bust on through that mid 1m 41s bracket and get on in amongst the front guys. We'll be working on a few things tonight so that I can move up tomorrow and try to get a good grid position."
Dani Pedrosa - 1'40.906s, 42 laps; 185 Km;
"I'm reasonably happy with progress today and we improved a lot from the morning as the track temperature rose for the afternoon session.
It's only the first day and we're still working on the bike set-up and tyre choice but I have a good feeling on the bike and I hope we can continue to move forward tomorrow and set a good qualifying position. We must work hard for this because the times are so close today and a good grid position will very important, especially with the tight first corner here. "
Casey Stoner, 4th fastest, 1m 41.171s;
"Things are okay but I suppose we shouldn't really expect any less than what we've done today. Everybody is saying how fast the Ducati is and how that's the only reason we were up front at the last race but here we're still sticking it in there against the hometown boys, even though there's no big straight, so the Ducati is proving it's a good package. There's a few things we need to improve - we need to find a little bit more rear grip and we need to improve the turning a little bit through the entry and the middle of corners, so for tomorrow we'll just tweak the suspension and geometry. Otherwise I think we're already pretty happy with our race set-up. We made the best tyre selection we could for this race and we're just trying to do the best job we can with it, same as Qatar."
Loris Capirossi, 11th fastest, 1m 41.409s;
"We started this morning with a very similar setting to what we ran at Qatar and we lost most of the first session because it wasn't the best choice for this track - we were trying to find more traction but in the end that meant I didn't have enough feeling from the front. So we completely changed the set-up for this afternoon, going back to more standard settings, and things started to go better. I can now lap easily enough around 41.5 or 41.6 but we need to make another step forward to be really okay because our target is to lap in the low 41s. Tomorrow morning I'll do a mini race run to check tyre endurance but I can honestly say I'm happy with the direction we took this afternoon and confident that we can improve more for the race."
Alex Barros (1'42.383 1° session -1'41.362 2° session):
"I'm satisfied with this first Free Pratices day because we founded really a good setting. Unfortunately, I used only some soft tires compound, except in just one lap when I run with o ther type, that I feel could be the right choise for the race. We are working now in a right direction, more than during the last IRTA Test session and if I'll we able to reach a good rhythm I'll be very confident in a good race.. I'm quite satisfied with my best lap time scored today, but I hope to do a very good qualifying session to achieve tomorrow a better starting slot.. Here in Jerez, there aren't a lot straight to overtake the rivals, and so is really very important to be fast at the start in order to achieve the podium".
Alex Hofmann ( 1'42.515 1° session -1'41.835 2° session):
"I'm quite satisfied with this day, because we worked on the bike set-up and we tried some different kind of tires. My lap time could be better but we are quite near to achieve our aim. The DUCATI-BRIDGESTONE package at our disposal is very good and let us to be competitive but I'm sure that this championship will be hard, because everyone push at the maximum! Despite of my lap time, I'm equally satisfied because we had constant rythm for the race and we are better than in Qatar; the thing that I need to improve is my aceleration on track to have good qualifying for Sunday's race.
Randy de Puniet - 14th - 50 Laps - Best Lap 1'41.666;
"Well this weekend definitely didn't start as we hoped or expected. It was a hard practice day today, as we experienced a lot of problems with the rear. The bike was sliding a lot in almost every corner. We tried different tyres from the choice we have for this weekend, but the performance was not what we were hoping for. The bike improved a lot in the afternoon and, looking at the timesheets, the gap with respect to the front guys is not so big. We are still confident, as we just need to adapt to the situation and we know our bike is capable of going well here."
Olivier Jacque: 19th ? 48 Laps ? Best Lap 1'42.402;
"This morning we didn't have any rear grip at all. I was expecting it to be better in the afternoon, as the track temperature increased, but even though it improved a little, it was not enough. The rear wheel kept spinning a lot and I had no traction, which prevented me carrying good corner speed. We tried different suspension settings, mainly on the rear, but also on the front as well. It looked to be better, although we need to confirm it tomorrow. The new engine mapping seems to make the power delivery friendlier at the bottom, but it still needs to be adjusted for full throttle."
"We're off to a pretty good start for the weekend. We are working through the tyres with Bridgestone as I had to throw the dice and take a bit of a gamble with which tyres to choose for the new tyre rule. I never made it here for the IRTA test so I didn't have a lot of information. It seems like what we've got is pretty good, but we are still going to work on some settings to get the best grip we can. I still have a bit of pain and this is a more physical track than Qatar so I am really feeling it. But I'll ride around that and I am expecting to have a pretty good weekend. Everything has got off to a good start and if we get that bit more grip and get a good qualifying position tomorrow anything can happen come Sunday!"
"The weather has changed a bit for this weekend and it was quite cold this morning. That made it a bit difficult to anything on the track in the beginning because the air and track temperatures were so cool. We made some changes with the bike and tried a different tyre this afternoon that gave us a bit more grip. I was consistently going quicker and after we made some small changes to the suspension I managed to do my fastest ever lap around here on race tyres. The bike is feeling pretty good and I can do one minute 41 second laps quite easily, so if I can do that come Sunday we might be quite near to the front!"
Toni Elias (3rd 1'40"972):
"To set the third fastest time on the first day is a good way to start, even though we are all very close and we need to keep working. The test after the race in Qatar was really useful and today I found a good feeling straight away. I have got a good rhythm and it will be important to keep working with the Bridgestone technicians to choose the right tyres for the characteristics of this circuit."
Marco Melandri (12th, 1'41"477):
"We're all very close. I'm happy with the way the bike is working with the tyres. The track conditions changed a lot from the morning to the afternoon, making it difficult to find a good set-up. Tomorrow we have to continue to work on the suspension to improve the feeling. I tried to do a run of a few laps but I was still struggling with the flu and it was hard to breathe properly. In any case I'm really confident about the rest of the weekend."
Shinya Nakano - Rider, Konica Minolta Honda (50 laps - 1'42.199");
"Quite simply it was not my day today. We now have to look forward and I'm looking for the same sort of times as from the IRTA test or better. We also need to understand why we are in this position. The feeling from the bike is a little different, even with the setting being similar, but the bike doesn't turn as well and I'm not getting such a good feeling from the front-end of the machine. We had a similar problem in the morning and adjusted the suspension settings for the afternoon, so maybe we've not gone in the right way. I need more confidence in the front tyre but I'm sure the Team and I can find it."
- 1, Carlos Checa, Honda, ESP, 1'40.851
- 2, Daniel Pedrosa, Honda, ESP, 1'40.906
- 3, Toni Elias, Honda, ESP, 1'40.972
- 4, Casey Stoner, Ducati, AUS, 1'41.171
- 5, Kenny Roberts, KR212V, USA, 1'41.182
- 6, Valentino Rossi, Yamaha, ITA, 1'41.198
- 7, John Hopkins, Suzuki, USA, 1'41.245
- 8, Chris Vermeulen, Suzuki, AUS, 1'41.305
- 9, Colin Edwards, Yamaha, USA, 1'41.339
- 10, Alex Barros, Ducati, BRA, 1'41.362
- 11, Loris Capirossi, Ducati, ITA, 1'41.409
- 12, Marco Melandri, Honda, ITA, 1'41.418
- 13, Nicky Hayden, Honda, USA, 1'41.536
- 14, Randy De Puniet, Kawasaki, FRA, 1'41.666
- 15, Alex Hofmann, Ducati, GER, 1'41.835
- 16, Makoto Tamada, Yamaha, JPN, 1'42.097
- 17, Shinya Nakano, Honda, JPN, 1'42.199
- 18, Sylvain Guintoli, Yamaha, FRA, 1'42.311
- 19, Olivier Jacque, Kawasaki, FRA, 1'42.402