Sepang MotoGP

After a four-day break, riders were on the track Friday for the first free practice session of the Malaysian Grand Prix in Sepang, Round 15 of the 2010 MotoGP Championship.

Although he’s riding with a hurt shoulder, Valentino Rossi piloted his Fiat Yamaha M1 to the quickest time Friday, the Italian posting a 2:02.724. The next three riders were all within 0.5 of a second of Rossi.

Coming off his best finish of the season with a second at Motegi, Andrea Dovizioso trailed Rossi Friday in Malaysia by 0.109 of a second.

Dovi was followed by the series leader Jorge Lorenzo, who was 0.174 of a second behind Rossi, and then Ducati Team rider Casey Stoner by 0.436 of a second.

The fifth fastest time went to Rizla Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista.

Here’s what the riders were saying after Friday’s Practice Session for the Malaysian Grand Prix:

Valentino Rossi says: “It’s been another good start for us here and we found a good setting straight away. I am feeling very comfortable on the bike and so far my shoulder is okay here. The track is quite dirty but that will get better and I love riding at this track, it’s one of my favorites and I am always happy to be on the bike here. We are confident that we will be able to make some more improvements tomorrow and be in good shape to try for the front row tomorrow afternoon.”

Jorge Lorenzo says: “Today conditions were quite difficult, with the high temperatures and a dirty track. I’m happy though because I felt good on the bike, I rode fast and I was close to the first position. We rode with the old engine again today but maybe we will try the new one tomorrow. We need to work on the fourth sector, which is where we’re losing time at the moment, so tomorrow we will concentrate on that and try to improve further.”

Casey Stoner says:
”I’m not really happy with the way things went today. We had a small crash at the beginning of the session so had to switch bikes and do a lot of work to get it feeling better. Every time I went out there was some small problem and we seemed to take a while to find a reasonable setting.”

“By the end I had established a good feeling and I wanted to make a better lap time on the second lap of my final run but I ran wide in turn one and that was that. We’ll take this data and try to improve the bike for tomorrow. We seem to be struggling most of all with the rear, just like at Motegi, but once we solve that I’m sure we’ll see major improvements with the rest of the bike.”

Nicky Hayden says:
”We have picked up where we left off in Japan, which is not a good thing. We struggled a lot, right from the beginning, over the bumps mainly. I have a lot of front chatter, we got rear chatter too, and I cannot carry any good corner speed. We’re 1.2 seconds off the top, which may not seem that much but the reality is that it is a lot when the field is as tight as it is right now. That kind of gap is pretty much going to send you to the back. We definitely need to do something for tomorrow because today was not good.”

Alvaro Bautista says: “I am happy today because we have made a good first practice, it was important that we were able to start with a good setting because we already had a good reference point from the winter tests. It was helpful to have that base setting, but today the conditions were much different from the test and I felt like I had less grip from the rear tire. I started with the harder rear, but it did seem difficult to get the feel I wanted. I tried both my bikes with different settings and I preferred the second one because it was easier to ride.”

“I put a soft tire in at the end and did a few laps with that and set a good time. We are still a bit away from the lap-time at the winter test, so we have to improve on many things to get the bike where we want it. We have hard work ahead of us tomorrow and I want to say a big thank-you to all my team, because they have started the weekend very well and we must continue like that.”

Colin Edwards says: “I’m happy to be in the top six and really close to fifth but we have still got a lot of work to do. We changed as much on the bike in one hour that we would do in one day at the test because I was really struggling with front and rear grip. We had to move a lot of weight off the front because I wasn’t as confident with the front tyre as I have been recently.”

“And I was changing the front and rear suspension a lot to try and improve the traction. I just didn’t feel like I could carry any lean angle, so considering some of the limitations I had this afternoon, the position is not too bad. I know I was losing time out t here so with some more overnight changes I’m sure I can be faster.”

Ben Spies says: “For how I felt on the bike, the lap times are not so bad because I honestly expected to see myself in dead last. I just didn’t feel confident enough with the bike to push it as hard as I normally can but looking at the times I’m actually not too far off. So I’m actually not as worried as I expected because if we can improve the bike like I know we will, I’ll be right up there and in a much stronger position.”

“I’ve just got to keep plugging away but today we were just chasing front and rear grip. The bike didn’t feel that balanced either but we’ve got lots of ideas and I’m sure we’ll be quicker tomorrow and in a strong position to challenge for the top five on Sunday.”

Loris Capirossi says: “I don’t know why I have gone like that today, because normally we go well on this track. I have something not working well because I’m not getting a good feeling in the bike and I don’t really know what the problem is. We will have to work hard tomorrow to get it right and then we will see what we can do. We have to look at the data and see what the connection is between that and how the bike is working and make things better for tomorrow.”

Hiroshi Aoyama says: “We wanted to try the Motegi Set up on this track and see how I can manage it here, but unfortunately the bike with the Motegi set up had some technical problems and I had to use the other bike with a different set up. We were not able to use the other bike during the whole session and I could not try Motegi’s Set up, which I really liked and I wanted to see if it also works here. We have to start from Zero again tomorrow and lost a whole day of work and that is not good at all.”

Aleix Espargarò says: “It was since a few races that I didn’t start a Grand Prix in a so positive way. Today, things went in the right way since the beginning and the gap of seven tenths from Valentino Rossi on a such of a long track give us good hopes for the rest of the weekend. The bike responds well and I am hopeful that tomorrow, thanks also to the additional changes that we’ll make on the bike with my engineers, we’ll be able to gain a good position on the starting grid.”

Mika Kallio says: “Being last is certainly not a good way to start the race weekend, but unlike other circuits, the gap from the fastest riders is not excessive. We started the free practice with the best winter test setting; we then worked on the bike to make it as balanced as possible. I improved my best lap time lap after lap until the end of the session, which has not happened in the last few races. Some balance changes on the bike had not produced the results we were hoping for, but tomorrow during the second free practice we’ll further develop other solutions in order to further reduce the gap from the front riders.”

Randy de Puniet says: “It was a quite good first session for me. I did a 17-lap long run on race tires with a good pace but after that I had some small technical issues thus I lost some track time. At the end I came out on a new hard tire and I was lapping very fast when I had a big high side. I almost crashed so I preferred to come in. We had really low grip today but this is a trademark of this track and today the asphalt reached 54° degrees. We will focus on engine mapping and suspension regulations to improve the bike for tomorrow’s qualifying.”

Marco Melandri says: “At last! Finally we have taken a step forward with our braking issues. We have been working hard all season without finding anything but we made improvements in a few areas today and I am very happy. We decided to go for a radical set-up compared to usual and luckily enough it worked.”

“Honda have also provided us with a new part for the front end that I feel has helped us take this step forward. Now we have to work hard without making too many changes and improve on what we already have to make sure we have a good qualifying practice tomorrow.”

Marco Simoncelli says: “Not bad…we’re not far off the front and just nine tenths off the fastest time. We’re definitely going better than in the winter tests. Obviously we still have a lot of work to do but we have a good base to work from because even though I am in eleventh the gaps are really small and you only need to find a few tenths to make up a lot of positions. I am sure everybody will improve tomorrow so hopefully we can too and move up the order.”