Casey Stoner finally managed to break Valentino Rossi's stranglehold on testing on the final day at Qatar, the Australian putting his Marlboro Ducati on top of the timesheets early on, and only occasionally ceding the lead to the Fiat Yamaha man. The Australian was fast throughout the session, not even a minor crash slowing Stoner down.
Despite finishing half a second down to the rider he has annointed as his main challenger, Rossi pronounced himself happy with the way the test went, telling GPone.com that he believed the new Yamaha M1 had proved it was competitive at Qatar. The Italian also tested some tires for the 2011 season; after testing a hard front in Sepang, Rossi tried the softer compound 2011 front tire at Qatar, but revealed he did not believe it represented a huge leap forwards.
Another surprise in the top three on Friday was Andrea Dovizioso. The Repsol Honda rider took nearly a second off his time from Thursday to get within a couple of hundredths of Valentino Rossi. Dovizioso and LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet are the only two riders who seem to be getting along with the new Ohlins suspension which graces the RC212V, the other riders all complaining of a lack of feeling from the rear. Dovizioso's teammate and Repsol Honda lead rider appears to be the chief victim, managing only the 13th fastest time on Friday, over a second and a half slower than his former 250cc nemesis Casey Stoner.
While Honda suffers, Ducati's fortunes are on the rise, with Nicky Hayden once again making a big leap forward to set the 4th fastest time of the day. Hayden has struggled with getting the Ducati dialed in at some tracks, but a year's worth of data is starting to pay dividends for the American, as Hayden is getting up to speed more quickly and more often.
Hayden's speed came with a fall, the Marlboro Ducati man going down just as his teammate did later on in the session. In fact Hayden's crash triggered an almost literal domino effect, with the two other Americans in the series going down at the same place - Turn 2, where the moisture had been forming on the track - within 10 minutes of the Ducati rider. Neither Hayden, Colin Edwards or Ben Spies suffered any serious injury, and all were back riding to complete the session.
Like the man ahead of him, Loris Capirossi also showed a huge improvement on Friday, dropping nine tenths of a second to leap up into 5th, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo. Capirossi's improvement was indicative of better things all round for the Rizla Suzuki squad, Alvaro Bautista registering a similarly huge 1.1 second improvement in his time to leap up to 12th.
Jorge Lorenzo finished the day in 6th, telling GPOne.com that his injured hand prevented him from going much faster. Despite his position, he was pleased with both the bike and his own progress, and is hopeful of being stronger and in less pain once the MotoGP paddock reconvenes in Qatar in three weeks' time for the season opener.
If Ben Spies' 3rd fastest time from Thursday caused a tidal wave of speculation that the Texan may be the next Alien, Friday's more modest 10th fastest time will have dampened such ardour, putting Thursday's times into perspective. Both Tech 3 men were slower on the second day of the test, Colin Edwards adding two tenths to his time while Ben Spies lost over 0.8 seconds from his time on the first day. Spies time on Thursday puts him in 4th position when taking the times from both days into account.
The riders will now head home for three weeks, to study the data collected over the past couple of days and prepare for racing in earnest. All seventeen men will be back here in three weeks' time, when the season finally gets underway again, after what has become a seemingly endless off season.
Times from the second day of testing at Qatar, courtesy of MotoGP.com:
|7||14||Randy De Puniet||Honda||1:56.504||1.151||0.000||66|