When the 18-rider MotoGP grid finished the first day of practice at Laguna Seca, the shortest circuit on the 2011 schedule, three riders stood out – Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner.
During both practice sessions (FP1, FP2), these three were seperated from the remaining riders by over three seconds. When the Friday sessions were complete, Yamaha Factory Racing’s Lorenzo lead the Repsol Honda duo of Pedrosa and Stoner, respectively.
As for Valentino Rossi, the Ducati Team rider again struggled with setup on the GP11.1. He finished Friday 11th fastest, 1.313 seconds behind the group led by his former Yamaha teammate and reigning MotoGP Champion, Lorenzo.
The grid features 18 instead of the usual 17 this weekend due to AMA Superbike rider Ben Bostrom riding as a Wildcard for LCR Honda; Bostrom finished 18th in both sessions, but showed improvement from FP1 to FP2 during his MotoGP debut.
Here’s what the riders were saying following Friday’s practice sessions for Laguna Seca MotoGP:
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: "I am very happy to be back riding here at Laguna, a track I love. Today went pretty well, the bike felt ok. P1 I’m happy with but we need to try to improve corner entry for the bike because there are some tenths in that and it will give me more confidence turning in. It’s not so bad to begin and we will try to go faster tomorrow!"
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: "Today hasn’t been bad, we’ve worked on a lot of different set ups. We haven’t found a perfect one, we’ve found a compromise so far but tomorrow we have a pretty good game plan on what we’re going to fine tune from the bike we ended on today to get a bit of a better set up for front feel. I’m feeling good, I can tell the bike has it in it, you can see that from Jorge we’re just not getting the maximum from it yet."
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "The second session in the afternoon was pretty interesting, we made some changes on the bike and tried the race tire, looking to set up the bike to absorb the bumps of which there are many in this track and they especially affect the front.
"The grip was a little poor today and it was also very windy out there, so we haven’t yet found the perfect ride. In the morning we tried the softer compound and it had a little more grip, and in the afternoon, with the race tyre, it was more difficult to find grip, but perhaps the track conditions were not perfect, so we are hoping to keep improving tomorrow."
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "This afternoon we did a comparison between two different set ups and the feeling improved. We still have a gap of four tenths from the first rider, but we lapped more consistently.
"We need to keep on working to improve the pace and the feeling with the front but in general I’m confident that tomorrow we will be able to make another step forward. Compared to the first free practice, lap times came easier this afternoon and tomorrow we will continue working in this direction."
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "We’ve been trying all day to get a slightly different balance with the bike to get the tires working differently but we’re struggling to get the feeling that we want and that we’ve had in the past.
"We’ve changed the set up quite substantially, with pivot positions and trying to get the rear to work with a little less temperature in the tyre, which we’ve accomplished but still haven’t got the grip that we want and we’re creating too much wheel spin.
"Also, we’re struggling to find a good feeling in the front and just not totally comfortable with the bike in general so we have a some work to do tonight and will continue in the morning to get prepared for qualifying."
Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1 MotoGP) says: "Today was a decent start and I’m happy with the way things went. In terms of the position it is not my best start to a weekend at Laguna Seca, but I’m actually happier with the feeling of the bike than I have been for a long time at this track.
"The bike felt really good from the start, though we can make some improvements to the rear tomorrow just to make it feel a bit smoother and a bit less nervous. I’m confident for the rest of the weekend because I’m pretty close to the top six and we know we can go faster. I want to say a big thanks also to Bridgestone.
"They a greed to bring some softer tires for this weekend and it was definitely the right choice. When it was cool this morning we really needed the softer tires, so everybody could just get a feel for the track and get comfortable without taking too many risks. We ran the harder tyre this afternoon and that will definitely be the race tire, and we got some good information with that too, so I’m optimistic that I can put on a good show for the American fans, who have been amazing already this weekend."
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1 MotoGP) says: "It wasn’t a bad day at all although obviously I want to be much higher up than 13th. At the moment it is quite difficult to do the lap time. I know going fast never comes easy but it feels like I’m quite close to the limit and I’m still over 1.6s behind. I’m the best of the rookies and that’s a good start but it seems we’ve taken a step sideways and everybody else has taken a step forward.
"The bike feels better than Germany last weekend but we can still make it better. We’re not far away and we’ve got some ideas to work on tonight but it also a lack of track knowledge that doesn’t help. Trying to learn the track and go fast at the same time is not easy, but I’m making progress.
"The track itself is really good fun. The Corkscrew is pretty amazing although I’ve run off there twice. The key part is the approach and it is weird running up to it, because you can’t even see it as you climb the hill. But it is a pretty amazing corner and it feels like you’re dropping off the end of the earth."
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP11 MotoGP) says: "It’s nice to be back at Laguna, a track I love, and things started off okay with the new bike. It was my first time with it, but it wasn’t something I needed a lot of time to get familiar with since I’ve ridden the GP12, which is similar. We’re just trying to evaluate it, and it definitely has some pluses.
"The gearbox is really nice, so Ducati has done a great job with that. We’re always trying different things like shock springs and new settings, but it’s not every day that you get to ride with a new gearbox that probably everybody will have in the future. We’re just trying to decide which bike will give us the best chance for a good result on Sunday."
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: "After yesterday’s technical briefing with Jerry and the team, we decided to continue with the new bike, so I only used the GP11.1. We started with one bike that had the Sachsenring setup, which has a significant change to the weight distribution, while the second bike had a standard setup.
"I actually prefer the one from Germany. We need to keep working to balance the bike and to improve the rear grip, and then we hope to get a little closer to the pace of the others. We have to try to do better than we have at the last couple of races, and especially to start closer to the front. I’m pleased that Bridgestone brought some soft tires, which worked well in the cool temperatures this morning, although I felt better with the hard when the conditions were warmer in the afternoon. If race conditions are like this, that’s what I’ll use."
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) says: "I am struggling a little here at Laguna to get on the pace like I have done at other circuits. We are not far off but so far I haven’t established a good feeling with the bike.
"I probably also need to find a faster way round the track, which is not an easy one and not one I know so well. I am quite fast in the second and third sectors, which includes the ‘Corkscrew’, but I am losing time in the first and fourth, so we have to improve my acceleration out of the last turn and try to find more confidence in those two sectors."
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) says: "It has been a difficult day, especially this morning. The afternoon was slightly better and we were able to work on tire choice for the race. I hope we can improve tomorrow and secure a good position on the grid."
Randy De Puniet (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11 MotoGP) says: "A good first day of work. We made it to improve by seventh tenths of a second compare to this morning and this give us good expectations for the next couple of days of work. I really enjoyed today the track, we have tried many solutions but as we kept the same rear tire during the session we couldn’t make it to improve more in the last few laps. I am confident."
Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11 MotoGP) says: "In the afternoon it was probably more difficult because I only took one painkiller to try to understand which were my real physical conditions. Sincerely I found more complications as I couldn’t make it to ride as in the first free practice session. Tomorrow it will surely not be easy, but I am here to ride and give the maximum to climb the classification."
Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki GSVR MotoGP) says: "This morning the track was very cold so we started with the softer tyres and from the beginning it felt like we didn’t have very much grip from the rear when entering a corner.
"The contact feeling wasn’t quite right so we worked on improving that and we also tried some different electronics settings for the spin control. In the second session the track temperatures had increased so we used the harder compound tyres, but we seemed to have the same problem as this morning with corner entry grip.
"This didn’t give me a good feeling and made me slower in the corner and on the exit than I wanted to be. We worked hard to try and resolve it but we didn’t quite manage it, so it gives us something to work towards tomorrow. My lap-times and rhythm were not too bad though and I was able to follow some fast guys quite easily, so this is a good sign.
"I hope that tomorrow we can improve on the rear grip and do some work on the gearbox, because we are not at our maximum here just yet. So we have a lot of work to do on Saturday, but at the moment I am very confident because my feeling is positive like it was last week in Germany."
Toni Elias (LCR Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "This is a tricky track a bit different from the others but I really enjoy racing here. We have been working on bike set as always but here we run only one machine and it’s hard to make big changes: if you do a mistake it’s difficult to come back with only 45-minute session. However this first outing was quite positive and if we can fine tune the bike for tomorrow I am sure we can improve and I can have more fun".
Ben Bostrom (LCR Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "Well… it was a great experience and I enjoyed myself very much. The adjustment we made for this afternoon session worked better and chassis set up felt better.
"I feel overall that Bridgestone tires are very good and the grip level is very high. I am struggling with the front in braking and turning into the corners so, in the last run, I took the opportunity to watch the other riders to see how they brake and how they turn into the corners of "my" race track."