Valentino Rossi started the weekend in strong form by finishing the first MotoGP Le Mans practice on top of the standings. Rossi and his crew had made some significant improvements to their setting during the Jerez test and they were rewarded with immediate gratification today, as the Italian felt comfortable and fast on his M1 right from the start.
Le Mans is accepted as a good track for Yamaha and it looked just that today as the World Champion lapped consistently in the top three before moving into first with his final lap. This was despite some lingering pain in his recovering shoulder, which he hopes will ease as the weekend progresses.
Lorenzo, who recently turned 23, was masterful in the wet here last year and looked equally happy in today’s sunshine, overcoming a small electronics problem at the start to find a good setting and turn out a string of laps in the 1’34s. He finished the session in third behind Casey Stoner and just 0.140 seconds off his teammate.
Valentino Rossi says: "I’m really happy about this practice and especially about my last lap, which was very quick. During the test after Jerez we got a better understanding of the problems we had and managed to improve our setting a lot, and that’s where we’ve started from today. It’s good to be this fast already. Unfortunately I still have some pain in my shoulder in the two or three hard braking areas, but I hope with the adrenaline tomorrow and Sunday it will be better and won’t cause a problem. Our bike is historically very good here and it feels great in the twisty parts especially, so we’re hopeful for a good weekend."
Jorge Lorenzo says: "At the start of the session we had a small problem on one bike with the electronics but we swapped to the other bike and things were okay from there. Little by little I found a good pace and at the end I was able to do a lot of laps in the ‘34s. My bike feels good here – as everyone says it is always a good track for Yamaha – and although we are still struggling a bit in the acceleration I am feeling good."
Cast Stoner says: "To be honest we had a fairly good session. It didn’t start off so well because we’re trying some new handlebars – we’ve made them a lot stronger so that if we ever have a small ‘off’ in a race we’ve got a better chance of picking the bike up and continuing. This has been a problem for us a couple of times in the past and even though the track conditions were perfect today you never know what can happen with the weather at Le Mans! We didn’t have the position quite right at the start so we had to spend a little time fixing that but from there on we made gradual progress. The initial feeling with the bike wasn’t great but it felt better once we stiffened things up both front and rear. Always when you go stiffer you lose a little grip so it was a case of playing around with the rear suspension and tyre pressures to find some traction. By the end I felt comfortable and we’re satisfied to be in the hunt because we feel this is a circuit that maybe suits some of our rivals more than us."
Nicky Hayden says: "For some reason whenever I come to Le Mans nothing comes to me real easy and that was certainly the case for a bit today. For the last run the team did a great job, changing a few things with the electronics to get more traction and less pumping and also a change to the rear shock that improved the feeling quite a lot. That gave me a half second over the last couple of laps and the feeling was a lot better. We’re still a long way from the front group but I definitely feel better after that last run and hopefully we found a direction. I always expect a hard weekend here and this one won’t be any different but I’m feeling positive after today."
Dani Pedrosa says: "Well this was a fairly normal first Friday session and the feeling today was positive. Obviously we were working a lot to find a good base setting for this circuit in these conditions and we haven’t found the perfect set-up yet, but I’m sure we can improve it a lot tomorrow.
I tested some electronics settings that I didn’t feel 100 per cent comfortable with, so we’ll analyse the data with the team and I’m confident that tomorrow I can make a big step forward. It’s good to have these weather conditions straight away here in Le Mans because usually we lose some set-up time with bad weather".
Andrea Dovizioso says: "I’m happy about how we started here at Le Mans. I didn’t do the maximum number of laps this afternoon because we were working in the garage to make some changes to the settings – but I had three laps where I could push and I’m happy with my lap times and the feeling with the bike.
At the beginning of the session we were working on the power control settings and making some adjustments to improve the rideability, and I’m confident we’re working in the right direction. Le Mans is a track that I like and it’s really a pleasure to ride with this nice weather. Long may it continue".
Colin Edwards says: "I am not as happy or comfortable as I thought I would be at this track. I know this is a good track for me and also the Yamaha, but at the moment I just don’t have the comfort level to enable me to push as hard as I know I can. I don’t feel comfortable going into the corner and on the exit I’m losing too much. I had the same sort of issue at the last two races and even though I’ve got a completely different balance on the bike now, I still seem to be struggling. I need the bike to be a bit smoother and less nervous. We can make it better and I know my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 will figure something out because they always do. I don’t think the set-up is that far away but I just need to refine it. This is a massive race for Tech 3 and Monster, so I’m determined to improve and put on a good show on Sunday."
Ben Spies says: "It was a pretty good session. Early on the main focus is just to learn the track and I felt good pretty much all over the track apart from a couple of points that I figured out right at the end to get in a good lap time. The track doesn’t have anything super tricky to learn but I’ve still got to get my bearings at Turn One a little bit, but for just one hour I got a lot accomplished. We can make some changes and I’m sure we can find a bit of time in the bike. The front-end can be dialled in a little bit better. But because I don’t really have the experience at this track, it is hard to know what the bike is capable of. But I feel like there’s a couple of tenths in the bike and me. I’m under a second off the best time and in the top ten and that is my target right now. I don’t believe in the next session I’ll be running at the front, but I can certainly cut the gap and move up a bit more."
Randy De Puniet says: "It’s not the session we expected but the overall package is the same of the first two races and we have to adjust it. We have started the session with front and rear race tyres and we kept them till the end. At the beginning I was pretty fast but the bike was too aggressive. We have got some issues in chassis and braking stability and the bike is really nervous in changing direction. We have to fix these points to take a step forward for tomorrow’s qualifying".
Aleix Espargaro says: "I am very happy with this result, especially because on Fridays I generally have some problems to get confidence with the new circuits. I am excited to have close the first free practice with just one second gap from the first rider and also because I was faster than other riders that have much more experience than me. I was able to receive some technical advice from Ducati, I still have some problems with the front wheel but I have got a lot of trust in my team and I’m sure that tomorrow they will give me a even more competitive bike to have the best deal with the second free practice and qualifying. "
Mika Kallio says: "I am a bit upset about the result, but we did a tremendous job with the Team to try to solve all the problems and I think we have found the right balance for tomorrow. Unfortunately, my riding style does not allow me to be fast with this bike on some circuits and for this reason we need a little more time of the others to find the faster time. We remain however confident since after the first day of the last Grand Prix of Jerez, the situation was even more uncertain. "
Álvaro Bautista says: "I thought that I would feel better today than I do! I have worked very hard this week to be fit and I was confident that I would be able to ride the bike. It was very difficult though, because after two or three laps I started to lose energy and my left arm was hurting a lot and I couldn’t ride like I wanted to. Tomorrow I will have a pain-killing injection and hopefully the pain will be less. I will then make a decision if I continue with the weekend, today the maximum I felt I could do was five laps and the race is 28, so I still have a long way to go. I will try with the injection and see if things improve."
Loris Capirossi says: "I did the whole session with one set of tyres – and on my own – so I could see where we were at. It was a pretty good session, but right at the end we made a different setting that didn’t work at all, so that was a bit disappointing. We do have a good base to work on now and we will definitely improve tomorrow. Everything seems to be going ok at the moment, so we hope things stay that way and we’ll have good weekend."
Marco Melandri says: "It was a good session – we had a few problems to solve at the start because we were a long way off with the base setting, especially the engine braking, and it took us a while to fix it. We had two completely different configurations to try and at the end on the second bike we think we had something better but I was only able to do four laps on a race tyre. I still did my fastest lap of the session on that run so that shows we´re on the right lines. I am really satisfied with this and optimistic for the rest of the weekend. We obviously still have a lot of work to do but the bike is responding to my style of riding and I am getting more and more comfortable with it."
Marco Simoncelli says: " I was happy to get so many laps in because it was important for me to get confident with the bike before making any changes to it and I think that was the right tactic. At the moment we still have some problems to solve but it was important for us to localise the problems first and we have done that so the signs are good. We came to Le Mans with the set-up from Jerez, which clearly doesn´t work well here, so we need to work on the balance and weight transfer. I´m confident because the last few times I´ve ridden this bike have been positive and that means we just need to keep working in the same way."
Moto GP Le Mans Free Practice #1
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’34.402
2. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’34.508
3. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’34.542
4. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda Team 1’34.625
5. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1’34.989
6. Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’35.089
7. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’35.223
8. Ben Spies (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’35.291
9. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Pramac Green Team 1’35.450
10. Marco Melandri (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’35.643
11. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’35.685
12. Marco Simoncelli (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’35.959
13. Hector Barbera (SPA) Aspar Team 1’36.009
14. Randy de Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP 1’36.086
15. Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Green Team 1’36.292
16. Hiroshi Aoyama (JAP) Interwetten-Honda MotoGP 1’36.798
17. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’37.525