2011 Laguna Seca MotoGP Friday Round Up - A Fast Yamaha, And Two Slow Ducatis
Friday brought typical Monterrey Peninsula weather to Laguna Seca: cool and overcast in the morning, with temperatures rising and the sun out in the afternoon, but surprisingly, the times did not really tumble during the second session of practice. The difference between the fastest time in each of the two sessions was just a quarter of a second, despite a much warmer track.
Jorge Lorenzo was fastest in the afternoon, but more impressive than his best time was the string of fast laps he reeled off: 7 laps in 1'22.2 or better, and a lot better race pace than either Dani Pedrosa or Casey Stoner, despite the two Hondas being just over a tenth off Lorenzo's best lap. Lorenzo was, unsurprisingly, rather happy, though he claimed that there were improvements to be made with the front end, which is a worrying prospect for the competition.
Things are less happy over at Honda, with Stoner is once again struggling with grip. The hotter it gets, the less the grip, and as Stoner is one of the riders who likes the hardest tire he can get, he is having more problems than he would like with the softer mixture of tires that Bridgestone have brought. Last year's soft option is this year's hard tire, and this year's soft tire is another step softer, and Stoner is suffering because of it. Despite some pretty big changes, Stoner is still not competely comfortable with the bike.
Dani Pedrosa could profit most from the situation, the Spaniard having less trouble with his Repsol Honda than his teammate Stoner. Pedrosa's shoulder is still painful, but not so much it is slowing him down. His problems, like Stoner's, are more to do with the grip available at the Laguna Seca circuit than anything else. But Pedrosa is closer to Lorenzo than Stoner at least.
Ben Spies is still a half a second off his factory Yamaha teammate, but is confident there is still half a second in his bike. That might still put him a tenth or so behind Lorenzo, once the reigning World Champion gets the best out of his M1, but it will also leave him in with a chance. Spies has already told Dean Adams of Superbikeplanet.com that if he sees a chance he will take it and hang the consequences, and so far, Spies can't be written off.
Unlike the Ducatis. While Valentino Rossi has decided - or rather, been persuaded by long-time crew chief Jeremy Burgess - to stick with the GP11.1, Nicky Hayden will be switching back to the old bike, according to Cycle News. Burgess has persuaded Rossi that the GP11.1 is the future, at least for the time being, and they should see what they can do with that bike first. Hayden, meanwhile, wants his best chance of success in front of his home crowd, and switching to a new bike at Laguna was never going to be his favored option. He had pushed Ducati to have a GP11.1 at the Sachsenring, so he could test the bike there before making a decision about Laguna, but that had proved impossible. Instead, after trying the bikes back-to-back, he has gone for the safe option and will be racing the old bike, the GP11, saving the GP11.1 for the test after the next race at Brno.
But whatever Hayden rides, Ducati are in a deep hole. The factory Ducatis were just 10th and 11th in FP2, and both are behind Randy de Puniet on the Pramac Ducati. Hayden may be hoping for a miracle, but miracles are few and far between. It's a very long year in Bologna.