As the 2011 MotoGP Championship riders prepped for this Sunday’s Catalunya GP, weather conditions at Friday’s Free Practice sessions didn’t allow teams to obtain proper setup.
Take the Ducati Marlboro Team of Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden. Both riders began with their Le Mans MotoGP setups, but quickly realized the settings wouldn’t work on the Catalunya circuit. But by the time optimal adjustment could be made, rain began falling, slowing progress.
Hayden and Rossi would finish eight and ninth overall Friday, the two fastest Ducati prototypes. But they couldn’t touch the Honda boys, with Le Mans MotoGP-winner Casey Stoner setting the pace aboard the Repsol Honda RC212V.
Following Stoner was San Carlo Gresini Honda’s Marco Simoncelli and the other Repsol Honda rider, Andrea Dovizioso.
The other big news involved Colin Edwards; the American took a spill aboard the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, breaking his shoulder. He will miss this weekend’s Catalunya Grand Prix, as will Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) due to his Le Mans crash.
Here’s what the riders were saying following Friday’s practice sessions:
Valentino Rossi (Ducati GP11 MotoGP) says: "This morning we started with the setup from Le Mans, but we realised that something different was needed for this track; we altered the setup, but the first changes didn’t work. Then it started to mist, and that’s how it was for half of the first session.
"The second session started with a wet track, and although we were fast in those conditions, it wasn’t possible to work productively on the setup. We’re left with some problems to solve and, although the two-second gap isn’t accurate, we’re still too far from the leaders. Fortunately, we have some ideas for tomorrow in terms of both bike settings and electronics. I spent almost all my time on the same soft tyres, which were quite worn at the finish, so it’s also possible to make up some time there.
"Toward the end of the afternoon session, I stopped to adjust the fork setting, and I only had time left for one more lap-not sufficient to improve my time, but enough to understand that it was a step in the right direction. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we’ll see how much we’re able to improve. Anyway, although we’ll be more competitive if it rains, I would still prefer dry conditions, since that’s where we have to work at improving."
Nicky Hayden (Ducati GP11 MotoGP) says: "It was quite a strange day, with the weather. You just have to deal with it, but it makes it hard to test things when conditions are changing so much. This morning we had a really fine mist through most of the session.
"This afternoon we tried rain tires for a bit and then went to slicks, but I wasn’t able to improve my time from this morning. In left-handers, I wasn’t able to get the left side of the tire to come in. We tried some things, but you have to be careful to not confuse yourself, because a difference that you may think is due to setup might really just be down to conditions. Hopefully we’ll get some better weather tomorrow."
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says: "Today we didn’t ride so much because the rain started at the end of the first session and the opposite in the afternoon. There were only 20 minutes of dry time at the end so we had only eight laps more or less to try some settings of the bike. We are quite far from first position but we have another full practice tomorrow morning to improve. I’m happy to be here with my home crowd but it’s going to be tough to fight for victory. I need to be patient and calm and give it the maximum and fight for the podium."
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing M1 MotoGP) says: "I’m feeling good about today, it was a tricky session going out in the rain and dry, you couldn’t see how wet it was on the track so I had to feel it out a bit.
"We had a pretty big change on the bike trying to move my position around; I think we’ve found something and we’re hoping to now get some more dry time tomorrow. To be top five at the end of the first practice day and closer to the front is a lot better so we’ll keep building on this."
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "This afternoon we started with wet conditions and then the track dried out, however, it was not wet enough so we destroyed the tyres after few laps. All in all it was a good session and we tested both soft and hard tires in preparation for the race, in case there will be changeable weather conditions.
I’m happy with the feeling with the bike. We are 6 tenths from Casey but I think we can improve tomorrow. We did a good job and we will continue working in this direction tomorrow."
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "We’re quite happy with the day, unfortunately we didn’t get a lot of good wet or dry track time so a lot of time was wasted in changeable conditions and not achieving much. However, in general we got a pretty good feeling with the bike and everything seems to be working well.
"We would like to improve rear grip and turning on the exit, also some more stability on the brakes, but in general the bike feels good and we’re confident we can go faster tomorrow, hopefully in dry conditions and we’ll see what we can do.
"Physically I feel better than I have done in the past weeks, I’ve got blocked sinuses which doesn’t help when I’m trying to concentrate and my ears are popping but I’m trying to put this to one side and concentrate on the job at hand."
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Gresini Honda RC212V MotoGP) "I was a little tense when I arrived at the track on Wednesday but I was able to relax more and more over the course of yesterday and as soon as I got on the bike today I felt comfortable and without bad thoughts on my mind.
"We have made a good start. Stoner is slightly faster but we are close. We have to try and improve in sectors three and four because they are the two places I am losing time but I am confident that we have picked up where we left off. We have work to do but I think we can do it and if I can stay close to him in the race I will be able to see what I can learn from him. Obviously the mixed conditions today didn’t help because it limited us to less than twenty laps so hopefully we can have better weather tomorrow."
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Gresini Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "The weather today didn’t allow us to work how we would have liked but I am quite satisfied. Even when the track looked dry it wasn’t perfect and it is difficult to find the right set-up for the bike in these conditions. Hopefully it will improve tomorrow so that we can work on finding the right set-up for the bike and make sure of a good grid position."
Toni Elias (LCR Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "I feel satisfied about my performance today because in these conditions (not completely wet and not completely dry) I could have been the last one again but we improved our feeling and this makes me happy.
"Our plan was to improve our base set up of Le Mans including the chassis and suspension regulations to compare all these data with the new chassis we are using tomorrow. I think we had a positive start of the weekend and aim to continue in this way especially at my home race ahead my fans."
Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R MotoGP) says: "It has been a very strange day today because of the weather. This morning we did less than half of the practice due to the rain and it was also quite difficult this afternoon. We made some changes to improve on the grip in the wet and I started to get a much better feeling from the bike.
"As it dried out later in the day I was able to go quicker and felt quite good on the bike, but now we have to wait for tomorrow and see what the conditions are. I am very confident for this weekend and hope that I can get the feeling back that I had before my injury. I had a good race here last year and now I’ve got my fitness back, and I’m at my home race, I ‘m sure that I can go well. I know that tomorrow we can improve the bike because we have a lot of information to make it go better. I’m really looking forward to Sunday’s race – I think it could be quite a good one!"
Cal Crutchlow (Monster Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1) says: "I really like the track. It seems to suit my riding style and it turned to be a positive first day for me. I used the same set of slick tyres all day and I ran the hard rear tire, so I’m sure I could have gone quicker if I’d used the softer option. I did a few laps in the wet but it wasn’t really wet conditions and it was a bit of a waste of time.
"Learning the braking markers is one of the biggest challenges and in the first corner, I was losing 0.4s on the brakes just at that point. I could m ake up time in other places but you can’t afford to lose that much time in just one corner. I followed Valentino for a little bit and that was nice because you can learn stuff really quickly.
"He is smooth as silk and it is incredible to be learning off somebody who is my hero, but if I keep improving there is no reason why I can’t have a good qualifying and be fighting for the top ten again in the race. I’m really sad that Colin has got injured. He’s been riding brilliantly all season and everybody at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 wishes him a speedy recovery."