Fresh from consecutive MotoGP wins at the last two races, Jorge Lorenzo continued his blistering run of form by topping the Free Practice (FP1) time sheets on day one at Montmeló, his home Spanish track.
Ducati Marlboro Team rider Casey Stoner began with the difficult task of finding a set-up to cope with the sizzling Spanish summer at Barcelona today, as the Grand Prix of Catalunya got underway in 37ºC ambient temperatures and finished the day 0.153 seconds behind Lorenzo.
Andrea Dovizioso started by going out on the track with the softest compound tyre that Bridgestone has supplied this weekend, also trying several different set-ups on his Repsol Honda RC212V. After 25 laps of Montmeló, the Italian clocked up a best time of 1 minute, 43 seconds and 725 milliseconds, four-tenths short of Lorenzo’s best time.
Dani Pedrosa followed the opposite strategy, starting the free practice session with the hardest compound tyre, on which he thinks he will race on Sunday, to then switch to the softest compound tyres for the last ten minutes. He achieved his best time in lap 24 of the 25 he completed, with a time of 1 minute, 43 seconds and 631 milliseconds, three-tenths behind Lorenzo.
Tomorrow morning, the second free practice session will be held at the Circuit de Catalunya. In the afternoon, Sunday’s starting grid will be defined, after the battle for pole position in the qualifying session.
Jorge Lorenzo says: “This was a good practice and I was fast straight away again, although I did think that I would be able to improve my lap time a bit more during the session. Unfortunately the rear was sliding a lot which was partly to do with the heat, but we will try to improve this tomorrow. I love racing here, it’s so close to my home and it’s always extra special for me because all my family and friends come to watch. I hope I can give them a good show!”
Casey Stoner says: “I’m very happy about today. We started off on the right foot and so far I’ve had no problems with my arm – we just need to spend a little more time on the set-up of the bike but at this point of the weekend we have to be happy with it. It feels good and it’s easy to ride but we still have a long way to go before we start setting the lap times we think will be necessary. We have to work a little bit more with the rear set-up and the gearbox and I think if we can get better in those areas we’ll notice a big improvement overall. It is very hot here but the tyres are working well and our bike works in a different temperature range to the others, which could work to our advantage.”
Nicky Hayden says: “It wasn’t a great first session for us – we struggled a lot for rear grip. On the edge of the tyre I had no traction and I was losing a lot of time. Towards the end we got it a little bit better but it was quite a tricky session to be honest. We were trying to manage one engine and put more miles on it whilst the other one felt a little better so that was tough. It’s not a great start for us but at least I feel like I’m not on the limit yet. There is a lot of room for improvement and we have a lot of work to do tomorrow because we’re 1.1 seconds off the pace and that is a lot.”
Dani Pedrosa says: “I’m quite happy with the first session today. It’s not going to be easy to improve our lap times but for the first practice I’m reasonably happy with the bike. We started with the hard option Bridgestone tyre and then on the last outing we changed to the soft one, and this was the opposite way of working to most of the other riders so it’s natural that we moved forward towards the end of the session. We can see that we have to improve the grip and so we have to work a little bit more on the chassis set-up for this.”
“The temperature was very high today, and the track surface temperature especially, and this affects the levels of grip. We started at the point where we finished in Assen and the bike feels ok. We have to discuss all the details from today in our team meeting tonight but I think we have found a decent direction. In general I’m quite happy so far. Already I can feel the anticipation building for this race and the support from my home fans so I’m excited about the rest of the weekend”.
Andrea Dovizioso says: “I have a good feeling with the bike and, although it’s only a single session today, we succeeded to complete all the testing of different set-up solutions we had planned. We still have to fine-tune the settings of the electronics but I’m satisfied with today’s first practice session. Of course we have to continue to work to improve the lap times and close the gap to the front in tomorrow’s two sessions, but I’m confident we can do this.”
“It’s very hot out there, and from a physical point of view it’s very demanding. There is not so much grip and the bike slides a lot because of the heat, but this is also the characteristic of the Montmelo circuit. I’m not worried about these hot temperatures which are likely to continue for the weekend and I actually think this can be an advantage for the Honda RC212V. Our pace was quite good for the firs t day, but we need to be faster tomorrow”.
Ben Spies says: “The track is fun but the longer turns are pretty hard to learn. The last three turns are definitely a little bit different but I felt I was slowly getting to grips with it and I’m really surprised I ended so high up in fifth. I went out on one bike and just worked on learning the track and when I switched to the other bike I found the turning was a lot better. I fixed the twitchy feel I was having on the front and that was a positive. Then I put the hard front tyre on and it was a hundred times better for me and it ended up being a really good session. We changed the geometry in the front-end and got the bike turning even better. I didn’t have to hold the front brake to help the bike turn. Now I can let off the brake, throw it into the corner and get it turned. It is obvious rear grip is vital here in the hot conditions and the key is going to be who can set the bike up for the end of the race when there’s not much grip. I’m looking decent on speed right now but we’ve got to manage it and make sure I’m fast for the end of the race.”
Colin Edwards says: “I think I went about a tenth faster than my best time in last year’s Friday session. It’s the same rider, the same tyres, pretty much the same bike with a slightly different engine, so I can honestly say I’m trying my hardest and not getting any slower! I feel good and I’m definitely making some strides with the bike. We put some more weight on the front and got it turning a lot better. I feel a lot more comfortable and the bike is not running wide now when I get into the corner. It has been a nightmare with the turning this year but finally we’ve made big progress in that area. I went out on the hard rear tyre and I just stayed on that for the wh ole session. It is really hot out there and there wasn’t a lot of grip and we’ll need to make some changes overnight to the rear suspension because tyre management in those conditions is going to be crucial.”
Aleix Espargarò says: “How nice is to be able to be so fast in front of your fans! We are improving race after race, even in the free sessions. At Silverstone I was eighth on Friday, seventh in Assen and sixth now. It ‘s my home circuit and I’ll do my best to leave good memories of me to the people that will come here. This now is my best result since I am joining the MotoGP. Of course, the result of today is not very important, but I’d say that it’s better to start in this way. Tomorrow it will be again a great battle but I will try to maintain the today’s position.”
Mika Kallio says: “Despite the thirteenth position is not a good placement, I am confident for the rest of the weekend. We had worked on both bikes trying different solutions and tomorrow we will put together all the information we have obtained to set a competitive bike. I really want to have a good result here, last year I have finished the after test race in the fourth position and this is a proof that we can achieve a good placement here. It will be very important to conquest a good qualify position tomorrow, starting in the top ten is essential.”
Randy De Puniet says: “It’s physically demanding to lap in these hot conditions but I feel good and this first free session was pretty positive for me. In my first run today I made 14 laps because we planned to work on the race distance but the surface temperature is very high and we faced some rear grip issues. I have got a positive feeling on the bike and we tested different settings working on suspension and engine mapping but we still have to adjust some points to improve the rear grip for tomorrows session”.
Marco Simoncelli says: “That wasn´t bad but it could have been much better. I still haven´t found a good feeling with the bike and I have a few problems with the front on entry and rear grip on exit. Overall I am confident even though I know we have a lot of work to do tomorrow. There isn´t one particular point on the track where I am struggling – there are a few areas where we´ve having those entry and exit issues, so if we can make general improvements to the stability of the bike under braking and find some more grip on the rear then I think we can take a big step forward.”
Marco Melandri says: “From a physical point of view I feel quite good. I tried to get a feel for how strong I was over a couple of laps and the shoulder reacted well – the pain was bearable even though I was pretty tired by the end of the session. I am satisfied with it even though I´m struggling a little through the direction changes, which is where my sternum is a problem too.”
“We´ll see tomorrow when I get up how stiff I am. Anyway, another day on the bike tomorrow will help me as we try to improve ahead of the upcoming races. The bike isn´t bad, we´ve got a good base set-up but now the most important thing is how I feel on it.”
Fausto Gresini says: “Overall today didn´t go badly. Simoncelli tried a modified chassis and got a good feeling from it even though he needs to set it up more. He set some good lap times straight away and tomorrow he´ll do some more work on refining the set-up, so I am confident about the weekend ahead. ”
“I´m happy to see Melandri back – I honestly thought he´d be in worse shape on the bike. He is quite close to the lap times set by the others even though he´s struggling for fitness. Right now he needs to get strong again and we can´t ask for any more from him than that, although I´m sure he´ll take another step forward tomorrow.”
Álvaro Bautista says: “It has been a bit of a disappointing day for me because, at the beginning I started with a lot of confidence and less pain in my arm – I was able to ride like I wanted to for the first time since my accident. The bike felt really good, I was able to control it well through the corners and the package felt much better. I had a nice rhythm going, but on my second run I had a problem in turn four and I wasn’t able to control the bike. I grabbed the clutch, but I ran wide and I had to crash in the gravel because the wall was coming towards me very quickly. After that it was difficult because the other bike had a setting totally different to the one I crashed on. We wanted to try two settings today, but the second one was like a different bike and it just didn’t give me the grip or braking that I wanted. At least we know that the good setting is the first bike I rode today so for tomorrow we will set up both bikes the same. I have to visit the clinic now because I feel a bit more pain after today’s crash and I hope that I will be ok for tomorrow.”
Loris Capirossi says: “Today we started with one bike similar to Assen, but we tried a completely different setting for weight distribution and I have to say that it is better for the front feeling, but still not enough. We are still struggling on some turns and we need to find something to make it work through those as well. We have some ideas, but we also need to work on the engine-brake and traction control to get them right for this circuit. Overall it is not as bad as Assen, but we still need to improve. We are closer to the guys in front of us now and we have to continue working in this way to get even closer.”
Paul Denning says: “Our potential seems much better than last weekend, but it’s impossible to go from the back to being completely competitive in one step. The biggest disappointment of the session was Álvaro’s crash – which was no fault of his own. The potential he had shown to get into the mid 44s on his fifth lap indicates that there is quite a lot more to come when he is back on the bike with his favoured setting. Loris and his crew have also made some sweeping changes since Assen and when the setting is refined, there should be some light at the end of the tunnel for both sides of the garage here in Barcelona this weekend.”
Watura Yoshikawa says: “I have already ridden many laps on the M1 but this bike of Valentino’s feels quite different to the test bike and I need some more time to become used to it. Today was quite tough because in this heat the track was quite slippery, which didn’t make it so easy for me to learn it, but I felt better by the end. We need to do some more laps and I will be ready to improve tomorrow.”
Davide Brivio (Rossi Team Manager) says: “Today gave Wataru a chance to learn the track, which is new to him, and to give an initial indication of the bike setting to the team. It will be interesting now to see how much we can improve during the weekend, as he becomes more comfortable on the bike.”
Tohru Ubukata (Bridgestone Racing Tires) says: “Today the track temperature was high, but within our expectation and very similar to the conditions we saw here last year. Our slick tyre choices are the same here as they were in 2009 and I can say that both specs are performing well with Dani and Ben setting their best times on the softer rear. The left shoulder of the rear tyres is subject to quite low loads in Catalunya, so although the track and ambient temperatures are high, our soft compound rubber is required to generate good grip at a lower tyre temperature, particularly as the left shoulders have time to cool between turn ten and the next left-hander at turn two which are separated by four right-handers and the main straight. Most riders favoured the harder front tyre option although even front tyre choice was mixed with a few riders completing laps on the softer slick.”
Combined Free Practice Times
1. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’43.259
2. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’43.412
3. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1’43.631
4. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda Team 1’43.725
5. Ben Spies (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’43.854
6. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Pramac Green Team 1’44.136
7. Randy de Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP 1’44.196
8. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’44.440
9. Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’44.551
10. Marco Simoncelli (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’44.634
11. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’44.641
12. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’44.692
13. Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Green Team 1’44.745
14. Marco Melandri (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’44.806
15. Hector Barbera (SPA) Aspar Team 1’45.004
16. Kousuke Akiyoshi (JPN) Interwetten Honda MotoGP 1’47.757
17. Wataru Yoshikawa (JPN) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’48.015