Riders hit a rain-soaked Estoril track on Friday for the opening MotoGP practice sessions of the Portuguese Grand Prix. The fastest rider? The man who has been absolutely quickest all year, Fiat Yamaha Jorge Lorenzo.
Joining the 2010 MotoGP Champion with the second and third quickest times were Ducati Team rider Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi, respectively.
For the final two rounds, this weekend’s Estoril race and Valencia, MotoGP returned to three, 45-minute practice sessions along with a 45-minute qualifying session. Two practice sessions occur on Friday, and then a final practice session on Saturday before qualifying.
Friday’s first Free Practice Session was a complete washout, with only two MotoGP riders able to do laps, Interwetten Honda MotoGP Team rider Hiroshi Aoyama and Pramac Racing Ducati substitute rider Carlos Checa.
But the weather permitted all riders to practice for the second session, and Lorenzo immediately went to work on the 17-rider field for Sunday’s MotoGP race.
Here’s what the riders were saying following Friday’s two practice sessions:
Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha M1) says: “I love this track, I have won here both times in MotoGP so I am very happy to be here. Unfortunately the weather was terrible this morning and there was no point in riding, then this afternoon it was still very difficult, with a lot of water on the track and you had to be very careful.”
“I felt good despite the conditions and step-by-step we improved so that at the end, when it was slightly drier, I was able to set a good time and we are on top. Tomorrow we will have two longer sessions so we will be able to recover some of the lost time, let’s hope for no more rain!”
Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha M1) says: “This afternoon was a normal wet practice and I’m happy about my performance. I am close to the top, was fast from the beginning of session and had a good feeling with bike. Unfortunately we were losing a little bit in some sections of the track, especially the last one because the bike was moving a little too much.”
“We will try for tomorrow to improve the settings, it’s important that we made a good start this afternoon as this morning’s session was cancelled and it looks like the weather may not be very good over the weekend, so we will not have a lot of time to set up the bike!”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP10) says: “This morning there was too much water on track to be able to ride, it was like a river, so we had to wait until the afternoon to check a few things. This track doesn’t have a lot of grip, especially on the rear. It’s not a very abrasive surface but I had a really good feeling on the front – we just need to make some improvements on the rear.”
“We know the Ducati works well in the rain because the engine management system is good and that gives us a lot of control. Lately I’ve been quite fast in wet conditions but it takes me too long to get there. If it’s a wet race on Sunday and I’m going to be competitive then we need to be fast from the start so that’s an area we need to work on if it rains again tomorrow.”
Casey Stoner (Ducati Team GP10) says: “We feel we could and should have been faster today but we struggled for some reason with edge grip. When I picked up the bike the traction was good but on the edge it wasn’t. We also had some problems with the front brakes and I was having to adjust in every corner. Said that, we’re quite happy. I felt confident in these conditions and it looks like we’re going to have more of the same over the remainder of the weekend. We have work to do but for the moment I feel comfortable.”
Ben Spies (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1) says: “Today didn’t start off well with the heavy rain this morning and it just wasn’t worth going out and taking any risks. This afternoon was much better but it was still full wet conditions. It makes it really hard having to learn a new track when the conditions are wet. You just don’t know what the grip is like or where the strong points of the track are and for the first part of the session it was a bit like riding blindfolded.”
“I tried to follow a few people and I got a good feeling pretty quickly though and to be top five on my first day in those conditions is something I’m really happy about. There were a few tricky spots out on the track today and that made it difficult without me fully understanding the limits. A few guys were caught out but I didn’t really have any moments and I’m looking forward to a positive weekend after a strong start.”
Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1) says: “The session started really good. I felt confident on the bike immediately and was right at the front for a while. This track is kind of funny because it looks really slick but there is actually a lot of grip and obviously Yamaha has got a really good rain setting because Jorge, Valentino and Ben are all in the top five.”
“I’m sure I could have been up there too but I made a small mistake before the chicane. I drifted a little bit wide and all of a sudden the rear stepped out. It came back and I saved it but looked up and saw the wall on the other side of the gravel trap, so I just threw myself off the bike. I banged my left hip but I’m going to be fine for tomorrow.”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: “Straight away I felt much better on the bike here than I did in Australia and the shoulder has recovered a lot, which is very positive. I feel a little bit tired now, but basically I feel ok after riding today. It was a pity that we missed the whole practice this morning because of the rain, and also at the beginning of the afternoon session the track conditions were difficult, which limited what we could achieve. To be honest I didn’t feel totally at home on the bike today but I think this is normal after so long without riding, and this situation will improve.”
“Usually when you ride in wet conditions you take it easy and this was especially true for me today because I certainly didn’t want to take any unnecessary risks. It was good to be on the bike again and to see that I can ride more or less normally. Tomorrow we’ll see what the weather brings, but it’s good that we have two hours instead of two 45-minute sessions, and we’ll make the most of that extra time.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: “Everything was going quite well in the session and we were making progress and finding the best set-up for the track in these difficult conditions. I was on a fast lap when I made a mistake at turn eight and I had to brake on the white line at the edge of the track, and I crashed. Fortunately I wasn’t injured which is the important thing, but this cost us time and prevented us from being further up the timesheets.”
We need to make some more improvements to the set-up of the machine and the electronics for these conditions – and this is really important at this track because Estoril is quite tight and you need to manage the power really well. So we are not as close to the front as we need to be, but we have a lot of potential to improve from here and we know the areas where we have to work. It was a strange day with the lost morning session so let’s hope tomorrow brings more stable weather.”
Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R) says: “Today has been ok when you consider what it was like this morning. When I saw all that rain I was a bit angry, because it would have been a lot harder for me to ride in those conditions. I use my body more in the wet and I have to push down a lot on my feet so this was going to be a problem, but the feeling was not too bad and it felt much better than in Australia.”
“We have improved a lot since the last time out and we continued to improve in the session. I am only in 10th position, but quite happy because we were quite close to the top throughout the session and for us this is good. At the end, as the track improved, I came in to fix some things and the bike was ready just a couple of minutes before the end, but the conditions were changing so quickly it wasn’t worth going out because it was too risky. I hope that we can have a positive weekend here in Portugal – we really need it!”
Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R) says: “Today has been a strange day because it was impossible to ride this morning due to so much water on the track – it would have made it very dangerous out there. This afternoon it was still very wet, but at least we were able to go out. During the session I improved my time step-by-step, but I felt that the bike didn’t quite have enough grip as I entered the corners.”
“I tried to push a bit harder, but the grip stayed the same so I pushed a little bit more each lap and at the end I lost the rear and could do nothing to stop the crash. The important thing is that I am ok and we will see tomorrow if we can improve this problem with grip, because it is making it difficult to go fast.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda) says: “This morning the conditions were not really optimal and I was not out on the track for very long. This afternoon it went better and all riders were on track again. I didn’t feel very comfortable in the wet, especially in the corners I had some difficulties. We improved on that in the afternoon, but not enough and tomorrow we will have to continue to work on that. I want my feeling to improve more.”
Marco Melandri (San Carlo Gresini Honda) says: “It has been a really difficult day in terms of the weather because Estoril is always very slippery in the wet. Luckily the conditions improved slightly for the afternoon and we were able to have a fairly normal session. The most difficult thing was the amount of wind, which in particular affected my feeling with the bike under acceleration. We’ll see how the weather is over the next two days and I’ll do the best job I can.”
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Gresini Honda) says: “It has been a really strange day but thankfully this afternoon we were able to have a more or less normal session this afternoon despite conditions. I am quite satisfied because I have made good progress throughout the session and if I had pushed harder over the last couple of laps I maybe could have improved my position. Now we have to wait and see what conditions we have tomorrow but I am feeling confident. We need to improve the traction control and front end feel but we’re not in bad shape.”
Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) says: “This morning I was hoping for better conditions and finally the rain stopped for the second free session. Like in Phillip Island I decided to go for a long run to test the track conditions and I was immediately fast. I made a 45-minute nonstop session with consistent lap times between the 1st and the 4th position.”
“Obviously the other riders improved in the end but at that time I had already tested what we planned to test regarding mapping and engine brake. It was a quite good session for us and I am not worried about the weather because we are pleased with our pace in the wet.”
Aleix Espargarò (Pramac Racing Team Ducati) says: “I do not have really much to say, today’s weather conditions haven’t certainly helped me this morning. I was the first rider to exit from the pit lane, but the track was really full of water and with lots of puddles.”
“During this afternoon we worked on the bike setting, we had two alternatives to be developed. We’ve got the possibility to try them both and define which gives more guarantees of performance. It will be vital for me to stay on the track as much as possible during the third free practice tomorrow in order to reduce as much as I can my lap pace.”
Carlos Checa (Pramac Racing Team Ducati) says: “There couldn’t been worst weather conditions for my return in the MotoGP world. Too bad because the rain did not allow me to do many laps as I wanted. This morning tests were completely useless, the water on the track was really too much.”
“There is a huge difference between the Superbike bike that I was able to ride during this year and the MotoGP bike of the Pramac Racing Team, but despite the difference I was able to improve my pace lap after lap. I need time to get used to this new bike that I’ve tested only during a short test on Mugello track, but in completely different conditions. I hope that I can run as much as possible tomorrow morning and improve the feeling with the bike.”