The ninth round of the 2011 MotoGP Championship in Sachsenring, Germany, began balmy for the 17-rider grid.
These conditions caused a few crashes in the opening free practice on Friday, one that sent Valentino Rossi to the clinic. The Ducati Team rider was unharmed, and able to participate in Free Practice 2, but without positive results.
The man who led the pack in both free practice sessions Friday was San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli. In both sessions combined, second fastest was Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo, who was followed one-tenth of a second behind by last year’s Germany MotoGP winner, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa.
Here’s what the MotoGP pilots were saying following Friday’s practice sessions at Sachsenring:
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) says: "Everything is going well although I am not totally happy because we have some rear traction problems on the left side that we are struggling to resolve.
"It seems everybody is in the same boat but we will be working mainly on this area tomorrow to try and improve the situation. Our other main aim is to get a clear idea about tyre choice for Sunday’s race. Thirty laps is a lot here, especially because there is barely a single straight for you to relax on."
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V MotoGP) says: "I had never ridden a MotoGP bike at Sachsenring before but I quite like the track. Unfortunately I am still in quite a lot of pain from the Assen crash but little by little I am gaining confidence. Grip levels are not high so we will have to try and work in this area as much as possible to make up ground and positions tomorrow."
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: "I am pretty satisfied because I have improved my lap times today. I am almost faster than last year and I look forward to making another step tomorrow. We have made some changes and I feel much better on my M1; faster and more competitive! The slow corners are tough, but in the faster ones I take some tenths, especially T3 and T4. I hope tomorrow the temperature can be even hotter and we can fight for the first row."
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 MotoGP) says: "I didn’t get my best shot at the track today, I’ve got a head cold which has left me a little fuzzy and makes it kind of hard to give it 100% and be on top form. The changing temperature from the morning to the afternoon also meant the track conditions were pretty different to set up for. I’m aiming for lots of sleep tonight and I’ll be ready to come back stronger in the morning."
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "We had a quite positive start despite the accident I had in the morning practice session. I crashed in the fast downhill right hand corner, like everyone else because the tire was very cold and I had no warning.
"Fortunately I did not hurt myself which is good and in the afternoon I was able to improve my lap times because in the morning, after the crash, we didn’t have much time on track. In the second practice, with sunshine and a little more temperature on the track, we had better grip especially in these critical turns on the right, although the track conditions are not great.
"Anyway, times are pretty good compared to last year although the track conditions are worse. We will keep working on the bike tomorrow and I will probably try the new swing arm I tested in Mugello on Monday."
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "I’m happy with how we worked in both sessions today. This is a complicated track as there are only three right corners and it’s difficult to get the right side of the tyre into temperature and there is not so much grip. This morning it was colder than expected and we saw many crashes.
"We focused on riding constantly at a good pace without being too much on the limit. In this circuit you spend most of the time on the edge of the tire so we tried to maintain a good rhythm to avoid stressing the tires too much.
"We started well this morning and we improved in the afternoon session. We tried to ride consistently with race tires as it’s hard to maintain a good rhythm for the 30 laps of the GP on Sunday."
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "I’m not too happy with how today has gone, we had a crash second lap out in FP1 and this affected us quite a lot, we lost a lot of time coming in and changing leathers and then I had to go out on a bike that I wasn’t quite as comfortable with, so apart from the last few laps, this morning’s session was a bit of a waste for us.
"Then this afternoon we tried the bike from this mornings crash but something wasn’t quite right with it so we had to come back in and get on the other bike. We definitely made some progress, we started using hard tires front and rear and made some positive steps but we still need to take a big step forward tomorrow.
"Our confidence was knocked today and I’m feeling a little sore still but we remain positive for tomorrow and hopefully we’ll be able to close the gap a little more."
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: "We had good, stable weather all day for the first time in a long time, which makes testing things quite a bit easier. This morning we had a really good session. I came out of the gate strong like you’re supposed to and stayed in the top five for most of the time.
"It wasn’t a bad day overall. In both sessions, we went faster with every little change, using the same set of tires through the whole session. We improved the lap time this afternoon, but it seemed like the improvements were a little bit harder to make. We tried a couple things at the end that felt good but maybe need a little more time and adjustments. We’ll see what we can do overnight and where we are tomorrow."
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team GP11.1 MotoGP) says: "This morning’s crash caused a hole in my right arm that looks like a little anatomy lesson because you can see ‘inside’ as far as the muscle, but I also took a hit on my shoulder-the right one, which was operated on, and which now hurts a little. It’s nothing too bad, and I wasn’t really affected much today. Let’s hope that’s also true for tomorrow, especially the shoulder.
"We did lose some time for working on the bike’s setup, also because I got stranded in the second session. It wasn’t due to technical troubles but rather to a small bit of debris that was stuck, causing a precautionary engine shutdown. I think that tomorrow we’ll be able to improve because we’re working on a setting that’s halfway between the Mugello one and the standard one, and we think it will be good for this track.
"At the moment we’re losing a lot of time in some sections because although the rear of the GP11.1 is much more stable under acceleration, which is important, we still haven’t found a good balance with the front. If we manage to find a compromise, I’ll be able to do much better."
Toni Elias (LCR Honda RC212V MotoGP) says: "First I feel very lucky because I am in a good shape after this morning crashes. Both accidents have been heavy as I was lapping at over 200km/h but I have only suffered a small abrasion in the right arm.
"I love this track but I am starting to hate that turn (11) because I crashed many times there in the past. Anyway in the afternoon we could continue with our planning but I had some little issues about the front feeling and the rear edge grip. It’s important to improve the turning of the bike following the twisty nature of this track and this is our main target for tomorrow".
Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing Ducati GP.11.1 MotoGP) says: "I’m pretty satisfied with this first day, as it’s been since Jerez that we haven’t had such a good position in the results. In the afternoon, we worked even better than we did in the morning.
"The feeling with the bike has improved, and we also finally had some good weather. Tomorrow we’ll work on other areas, and we hope that the whole weekend will be positive. For me, it’s a pleasure to be in the group of riders who are currently going faster than the rest."
Sylvain Guintoli (Pramac Racing Ducati GP11.1 MotoGP) says: "Apart from my lap time, I can’t complain. The goal for this weekend is to improve session by session in order to find the right feeling with the bike heading into the race. I had some difficulties, of course, but I’m happy to be here and to be racing in MotoGP. It was fun, and I’m sure that tomorrow I’ll improve my time and position."
Alvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki GSV-R MotoGP) says: "Today has been a good day, because finally the rain didn’t make an appearance! This morning it was quite difficult because the track was cold and grip was at a minimum. I took it careful and just got the feel of the bike because I didn’t want to crash like some of the other guys did.
"This afternoon we tried different combinations of tires to get the best mix for the bike. I started with a used set of soft ones from this morning’s session and then changed to harder ones on the front and rear. These didn’t give me such a good feeling and I swapped the front for a soft and this was better.
"The rear worked well, but I still had some sliding from the left side and found it difficult to get a good line through the corners. I felt I had a good rhythm throughout the whole practice and I think that I can certainly improve quite a bit tomorrow, especially if the conditions are better as this will give us more grip from the rear and we will have a good opportunity to move forward."