MotoGP Japan: Friday News

The biggest news to come out of Friday’s First Free Practice session at Motegi for the Japanese Grand Prix, Round 14 of the 2010 MotoGP Championship, wasn’t who was fastest, but who unfortunately was injured.

Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa took a hard fall at Turn 7 when his accelerator became stuck, and the Spaniard suffered a double fracture to his left collarbone. Pedrosa, who is 56 points behind series’ leader Jorge Lorenzo going into Motegi with five rounds remaining, will miss Sunday’s race due to recovering from surgery.

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Pedrosa is hoping to return for the next round in Sepang, but it’s looking doubtful.

As for the quickest rider in FP1, Nine Time World Champion Valentino Rossi lead the timesheets, the Italian experimenting with new engine changes on his Fiat Yamaha M1.

Pedrosa’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso finished Friday 0.213 of a second behind Rossi, the Italian almost being the fastest rider until Rossi edged him out towards the end of the session.

Third fastest was Lorenzo, who was exactly three-tenths of a second behind his teammate. The man who won the previous round at Aragon, Ducati Team rider Casey Stoner, was fourth fastest, and the rookie Ben Spies was fifth fastest on his Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1.

Here’s what the riders were saying after Friday’s Practice session in Motegi:

Dani Pedrosa says: “Obviously this has been a really bad day for us. It was a strange crash in only my third lap, in a slow section of the track. I tried to stop the bike as usual but I knew something was wrong and couldn’t avoid going down. After the crash I knew immediately that I was injured because it was very painful. I had a big impact in my left ankle and also my collarbone was broken as I hit the track – so obviously it feels very unlucky because recently we have had really good results.”

“I’ve been very healthy through the pre-season and through the year and we had been working a lot to get to and stay at the maximum level. Another injury to contend with is really not what I needed – I don’t feel as though I deserve it. Anyway, once the doctors had checked everything here, we decided it was best to go back to Spain for the operation. I hope it goes as well as possible and that I can return to racing soon.”

Andrea Dovizioso says: “I’m happy with today’s session and especially with the lap time – today we started from a good base. In fact I think that we have a margin to improve further so I’m confident for the rest of the weekend. This is a track with particular characteristics; it has sections of strong acceleration and also parts where you brake aggressively, that’s why it’s important to find a good compromise to control the bike wheeling and get the best acceleration.”

“I’m also very confident that we can improve because today we used the same tires throughout the session and I didn’t test the front hard tire that seems to give an advantage. I’m really sorry for Dani. It’s always very bad for a rider when there are injuries. I was behind him and it was a bad crash. He fell quite hard and stayed under the bike when he slid. I hope he can recover soon.”

Valentino Rossi says: “I’m really happy about today, it is honestly a big surprise for me to be first! I was expecting to suffer a lot here with my shoulder because there are so many hard braking areas but in fact they are all quite straight so I was happy to find I was okay. In fact I felt very good on the bike right from the start and we have done a great job here with the setting. I used the new engine and Yamaha have done an excellent job on it, it is especially better in fourth and fifth gears and everything is working very well.”

“I know it’s only Friday but it’s a long time since I have been in front like this so I have to enjoy this sweet feeling! I know there’s a chance of rain for the rest of the weekend, which is a pity, and if it is wet we will do our best. I am sorry for Dani; I saw the crash from far off and it’s bad luck, I hope it is not too bad.”

Jorge Lorenzo says: “We are much better here than in Aragon, which is a relief! I don’t have the new engine yet like Valentino, I hope we can use it soon, but anyway here we lose much less in the straight here compared to at the last race and we have better acceleration. We can improve the traction a bit in some parts of the track but in general this was a good day and we are not so far off Valentino. I hope the rain stays away so we can continue to improve tomorrow. I don’t want to think for now how Dani’s situation will affect me, but I am sorry for him, it’s very bad luck to be injured at this stage of the season.”

Casey Stoner says: “From the first setting we tried to the second one and we made a huge step forward but after that, as I got more used to the track and found my braking points, we went a little bit backwards with the set-up. Also the rear tyre dropped off a lot towards the end, which affected my pace although it was the softer compound tyre and it had pretty much done race distance so that is not a concern. The question for us is whether we can get our bike working with the hard compound tomorrow. Hopefully the weather stays like this and allows us that opportunity because we have plenty of things we want to try.”

Nicky Hayden says: 
”The session didn’t start so well, I had a brake problem and had to come in after one lap and just generally struggled to get into a rhythm over my first couple of runs. After that we made a change and immediately I felt better and improved my time. Unfortunately halfway around my next lap I made a mistake in the hairpin and crashed.”

“It was only a little one – I lost the front and then saved it but my left foot came up and I just tipped off the inside of the bike. It was a bummer because I lost quite a bit of track time and looking at my ideal lap I would have been seventh fastest. This track is quite unique and always takes a little bit of work on the set-up so even though things haven’t gone smoothly today I am satisfied that we are close to where we need to be and we have some clear ideas about tomorrow.”

Ben Spies say: “Being in the top five having never seen this track before is a really good start. This track isn’t super technical and it doesn’t really help us much with all the stop and go sections that hurt us a little bit on speed. It was a little tricky learning the track because the conditions don’t seem to be what everybody is used to. So it was even trickier for me trying to build up trust in some corners.”

“I used the soft front tire at the start of the session and I wasn’t too keen on it. I came in for the hard tire but the team wanted me to do one more stint on the soft and on the second lap of that run I got in deep at turn three. I had to let off the brake to gather it back up but I was trying to keep the bike on the t rack because I didn’t want to get into the gravel with all the rain we’d had yesterday.”

“As soon as I got to the edge of the track I lost the front. I was only going really slow, probably like 10ks, but I landed really hard on my left elbow on the kerb. It’s not too painful and shouldn’t be a problem for me on the bike. It kind of proved that I didn’t like the soft front tire but the hard one felt good on the spare bike and the rest of the session went pretty smooth.”

Colin Edwards says: “It was a decent start and I’m reasonably happy because we tried a new setting today to try and help with a wheelie issue that we’ve always seemed to struggle with at this track. You’ve got all this hard acceleration out of low gear corners and we’ve always found it difficult to control wheelies here. I remember last year it felt like the whole weekend was wheelie management, so we put a lot of weight on the front-end today and it felt good.”

“We were actually moving forward out of the corner under acceleration, so we might have found something that can help us at a few other tracks. Without having to concentrate so much on stopping the wheelie problem, I can focus on accelerating a bit harder and that is helping us a lot. I was really close to sixth and not far behind Ben, so hopefully this is the start of a good weekend for me.”

Loris Capirossi says: “Overall I am happy with my condition today, I didn’t quite ride like I wanted to – or know that I can – but I found a good feeling with the bike and the team took a big step in the session to help me. To run in the top-10 in the first practice – and be only a couple of tenths off the top-five – is really good for me. We have to keep improving and with my condition – which I felt today was not 100 percent – we have to keep working hard to make the bike better for me to ride.”

Alvaro Bautista says: “It has been quite a good first practice compared with some of the other races. I started with the harder compound tyres, but I didn’t feel much rear grip exiting the corners so I changed to the softer version and that was better. I also tried the soft front later in the session, because under hard braking conditions it was difficult to turn the bike with the harder compound, but this didn’t seem to make much difference so we switched back to the previous one.”

“I do still have a bit of a problem with the exit from the corner because I don’t really have good grip and we must work to improve this as quickly as possible. Tomorrow we have a lot to do, but I am happy with today because I am not that far from fifth position and this means that we are going in the right direction. I want to have a good weekend here in Suzuki’s homeland and my team and I will try as hard as we can to get a good result.”

Randy de Puniet says: “Well… the first part of the session was pretty positive but when I tried to push I could not really improve my lap time. We had some rear grip problems and I could not handle the bike as I would like. We are missing edge grip and I can not do consistent lap times in these conditions. I am not happy about this first practice but I know the guys will work on suspension regulations to give me a better bike for tomorrows qualifying session”.

Hiroshi Aoyama says: “Everybody said that it will rain today and nobody expected such a nice weather. This helped a lot to try many different settings today, that we wanted to try out since Aragón. This track is not the best for finding the set up, but I have the advantage that I know this track very well and I could help with the set up. It seems not to be perfect yet, but we could improve a lot and we will continue in this direction. For the first time out I had a very good feeling today. It is my home race and special for me. I am under a lot of pressure here and I hope that I can improve my result in each session.”

Aleix Espargarò says: “I’m partially happy with how things went today, I had some problems with my forearm that did not allow me to push hard as I wanted. Certainly the result and the two seconds of gap from the first is not exciting, but we’ve got to work a lot and find the right setup that will allow us to gain a good starting grid position tomorrow for the Sunday’s Grand Prix. I have never race on this circuit with a MotoGP bike, and for this reason that during tomorrow second free practice session I’ll continue to improve my feeling with this track. In particular I have to work more in the third and last sector where I accuse the greatest gap from other riders. ”

Mika Kallio says: “I hadn’t got big problems with my bike even though it was slightly unstable in the curve in some sectors. Thanks to the latest setup made by my technicians, I was able to score my best lap time. Also during the last exit from the pits I had find some instructions to give to my technical to made them work on my bike so that they will made it perfectly balanced. Tomorrow we will start from here to reduce the gap that separates me from the best riders. ”

Marco Simoncelli says: “We tried a different set-up on each bike and I felt quite good with one but had problems with the other. I set a 1´49″5, which put me seventh fastest but I couldn’t improve on that with the other bike. However, I am sure that by working on the set-up I felt comfortable with and by improving it a little under braking we can take a step forward tomorrow. ”

Marco Melandri
says: “The track was still dirty after the rain yesterday and it wasn’t an easy session. We struggled in the early part because of the usual problems with braking, which is really important at this track. We managed to improve it at the end of the session and we want to try an even more radical change tomorrow to see if we can get something more positive. I hope the conditions allow us to have another day of dry track time and improve. I honestly think if it rains on Sunday we’ll struggle but not in qualifying because other people will have to be more careful whereas we can afford to take a chance.”