On Friday, both Free Practice 2 and Free Practice 3 at Losail International Circuit, Qatar, were dominated by Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner. The Australian was followed in both sessions by his teammate, Dani Pedrosa.
Making up the top five in both FP2 and FP3 were the third Repsol rider, Andrea Dovizioso, and Yamaha Factory Racing teammates Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo, but in different orders.
In FP2, Spies was third, followed by Dovizioso and the reigning MotoGP Champ Lorenzo. In FP3, it was Dovizioso followed by Lorenzo and Spies.
The biggest news of FP3 was a Turn-15 crash involving the sole Rizla Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista. The Spaniard broke his femur during the wreck, and will miss this weekend’s opening round of the 2011 MotoGP Championship. He underwent successful surgery on Saturday, but it’s unknown when Bautista will return.
Following are what the MotoGP riders were saying after Friday’s practice sessions:
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: "We did a good job today, especially in the third session. We concentrated on doing a good lap at the beginning and then we were focused on the pace. I’m happy about how is everything going – even if there are still some places where we know we can do better and improve some tenths, so let’s keep concentrated to do that tomorrow.
"For the qualifying session our target is to be on the front row; here my best position on the grid has been a sixth place and I would really like to be on front row tomorrow.
"This afternoon we tried both tires, hard and medium, and both worked well; my feeling is that the hard compound is better for the race distance even if the race is one hour later than practice today, and the softer compound is the best option for the qualifying session."
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: "I’m happy with the work done during today’s two practices and of course of the third position though it’s not enough because Casey and Dani are faster so we will keep working hard to gain some tenths.
"Today the team did a great job to solve the vibration in the middle of the corner that we had yesterday. First we changed the front rim without any change in the set up and the vibration decreased.
"Then we also modified the set up of the fork, a middle step between 2010 and 2011. Doing this I had a better feeling but we also lost the good points of the 2011 fork, such as the stability in braking and corner entry. Tomorrow we will continue working on the fork set up and the target is to do a good qualifying session for a good position on the grid. The race will be a bit different, long and hard for the body. I’m confident that we can improve."
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) says: "We spent most of the second session tonight on used tires to get a better understanding of where we are with them, we did a quick lap on race distance with these tires so we’re really happy with this – in addition we completed around thirty laps on the front tire which also worked well.
"We played around with the tire pressure a little, but in general they seem to be very consistent from start to end. Today we had a few more things to try, in the first session today we didn’t make many improvements from yesterday and then in the second session we made a big step forward. I’m really happy at the pace we’re running, the way I’m riding and how we have the bike set-up."
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing M1) says: "Today went pretty well; I’m happy with the progress we’ve made during the last sessions. I like the bike a lot more and we’ve improved a lot from the test.
"We are struggling to fight with some of our competitors but we won’t give up, we will continue to work on it and see if we can find another half a second tomorrow. I will try to make a good qualifying session to start on the front row. It will be a long race and we have a good race pace so I think we have a chance to finish on the podium."
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing M1) says: "We didn’t do anything crazy today but we were consistent and close to the front, it looks good for tomorrow and I think we can have a good qualifying session. We’ve made some good changes and we’re confident with the bike set up, maybe not for winning the race but definitely good enough for top five and maybe a podium. We know we need a little work but we’ll keep on at it and see where we can get to."
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team GP11) says: "Today was a bit difficult, because we had hoped to make a bigger improvement, but in the end we didn’t’ lower our time enough. First of all, my shoulder bothered me a little.
"I wasn’t as strong as I was yesterday, and in the end of the session, I could feel it. Also, we still don’t know this bike perfectly and, as happened to us in the test, we get to a point where it’s difficult to make a step forward with the setup. It’s partly a matter of experience. We’re trying to work with the weight distribution, especially on the rear, but we still haven’t found the right balance.
"We’re missing half a second with our pace to be in the group where we hope to be Sunday. Anyway, today we tried two setup solutions that were quite different, and we chose one that we’ll try to refine tomorrow."
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team GP11) says: "Things didn’t really go a lot better today. My position is worse than yesterday, and my lap time is hardly any better. I’m still having trouble with the bike in the long corners, but honestly, a rider should be able to find a bit more time than I have.
"After two days of testing and the practice sessions, my time isn’t that much better than it was in the test. It’s a bit frustrating to be so far back for the first race, but the team and I will try to figure it out. My guys are working hard and everybody’s pitching in. Qualifying could be difficult because the soft tire doesn’t really seem to help my lap time a lot. Hopefully we can find a setup change or something that will help."
Randy De Puniet (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11) says: "Today was a good day, we tried some electronic solutions and some traction control modification for the race and we have found interesting possibilities. I made it to try for the first time the soft tires and I noticed a big difference compared to hard ones.
"I do not know what tires will I use to conquer the fastest lap time tomorrow, I have three soft and two hard still available, but for the race most likely I will use the hard one. We are all very close, except for the first two which seem unapproachable at this moment, and this time every thousandth of a second will be decisive tomorrow."
Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11) says: "I must say that in general the first day of practice was difficult, but after a major change between today’s two sessions, the situation is considerably improved. I am pleased with the lap time that I did in qualifying and I think tomorrow we can still gain a few tenths. The race rhythm is good and this reassures me even more to this first race of the MotoGP World Championship."
Toni Elias (LCR Honda RC212V) says: "We are facing a difficult situation although we have tried many things on the bike. Even today we have worked on chassis set up and suspension regulations to get a good feeling on the rear but I am still missing grip because we can not warm the rear tyre enough. Like this I do not feel comfortable in the corner exit but we still have one session to fine tune the bike before the race on Sunday."
Colin Edwards (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1) says: "Tonight ended up working out really well because the first session wasn’t that easy. I had quite a bit of trouble getting the hard tire to work in the first session and that’s what we need to race with.
"The soft tire just won’t go the race distance, so we had to figure out a solution to make the bike work on the hard tire. Luckily, my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 and Ohlins came up with the answers. Earlier on I had too much wheelspin and couldn’t finish the corner, but we made some changes to the rear suspension and it was a million times better.
"Immediately I went out and did a 56.3, which was half-a-second quicker than I’ve been on the hard tire all week. I then did a 56.3 after about eight laps, so we got the hard tire working now. I knew we had to find half-a-second and we did, so hats off to the Team. I’m now a lot more confident for the rest of the weekend and feel we’ve got a really competitive package."
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha M1) says: "To be as close as I was to the top six, I can’t really ask for too much more. I wasn’t following anybody either and I was doing the times on my own, so that gives me a lot of confidence too.
"I’m much happier on the harder tire now. I was consistently in the 56s and that’s a big step forward on last night and I don’t really think the final position does us justice. Considering how sore my finger is and my shoulder is starting to hurt a bit now as well, I can’t complain.
"I actually think I could have gone quicker but when I put in a soft rear tire at the end , the front tire had got a few laps on it and it was moving around when I was pushing. But I feel a lot more comfortable on the bike and we’ve got a few ideas for tomorrow night, so I can improve a bit more."