The first day of the final test for the MotoGP class before the season commences saw Valentino Rossi continue his domination of testing, ending the session three tenths ahead of his nearest rival Casey Stoner. The Fiat Yamaha rider was constantly at the top of the timesheets, only really ceding the top spot when he paused for dinner late on in the evening. Despite the track cooling and the evening dew which started to form, Rossi took another half a second off his best time to stamp his authority on the session.
Casey Stoner found himself demoted to second, at a track where he has won three years in a row, but the Australian pronounced himself happy with the test, telling GPOne.com that the bike was working really well, especially on used tires. The Ducati Marlboro rider did comment that he would like some more power with the long-life engines, as would everybody, but he praised the new engine character, which made the Ducati much easier to ride.
Stoner and Rossi were the only two of the Fantastic Four to get near to the top of the timesheets, Jorge Lorenzo still recovering from a broken bone in his hand and Dani Pedrosa still having rear grip problems with the new Ohllins suspension on his Repsol Honda. The Spanish duo's difficulties opened up the field for the Tech 3 Twosome of Ben Spies and Colin Edwards to take 3rd and 4th on the Monster Tech 3 Yamahas. Spies in particular was impressive, leading the field at one stage and running constantly close to the pace of Stoner and Rossi, despite still taking "baby steps" in exploring the limits of his Yamaha M1. Even baby steps can be too far, though, as Spies crashed late in the session while trying to get more feel from the front Bridgestone tire by experimenting with tire pressures. Spies' teammate Colin Edwards pronounced himself happy with the new tires Bridgestone had brought, putting in far more than race distance on a single set of tires, just as Casey Stoner had done. What he was less happy about was the gap to Spies, Edwards ending the session nearly six tenths behind his teammate.
Randy de Puniet finished the day in 5th, fractionally behind Edwards and ahead of fellow Honda Andrea Dovizioso, though HRC would not have planned for the satellite LCR Honda to finish ahead of Dovizioso's factory Repsol RC212V. Jorge Lorenzo ended the session in 7th, pleased to have done so well with an injured hand, but still suffering under braking. Lorenzo was marginally faster than Marlboro Ducati's Nicky Hayden, the American improving his pace but still a way off his teammate in 8th. Dani Pedrosa ended the session in 10th, just behind Pramac Ducati's Mika Kallio and over 1.6 seconds behind Valentino Rossi. Pedrosa is a long way off the pace at Qatar so far, and Repsol Honda have a lot of work to do to catch the Fiat Yamaha and Marlboro Ducati.
Hector Barbera was the fastest of the "mortal" rookies, ending the day in 13th nearly two and a half seconds behind Rossi. Barbera put his Yellow Pages Ducati ahead of the Interwetten Honda of Hiroshi Aoyama, who continued his careful adaptation to the MotoGP bike, finishing three thousandths ahead of the San Carlo Gresini Honda of Marco Simoncelli. Behind Simoncelli, Aleix Espargaro took the penultimate position on the Pramac Ducati, while Alvaro Bautista rounded out the timesheet on the Rizla Suzuki. There was little to choose between the rookies, less than eight hundredths separating Barbera from Espargaro, with Bautista just another six hundredths behind Espargaro.
Testing continues - and concludes - on Friday.
Times from day 1 of the MotoGP test at Qatar, courtesy of MotoGP.com:
|5||14||Randy De Puniet||Honda||1'56.588||1.186||0.048||54|