MotoGP press releases from the first day of testing at Qatar, comprising of FP1:
Edwards and Crutchlow satisfied with early pace
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team riders Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow declared themselves satisfied with early progress at the end of the opening practice session for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar tonight.
In windy conditions that were as unpredictable as those experienced during a two-night test earlier this week, experienced Edwards made big improvements to the set-up of his YZR-M1 machine to post the 10th fastest time at the floodlit Losail International Circuit.
The Texan was encouraged by his pace having concentrated exclusively on using the hard compound Bridgestone rear tyre, though he plans to make overnight changes to improving turning performance in the faster sections of the 5.38km track.
Highlighting just how competitive the 2011 MotoGP World Championship promises to be, Edwards' best time of 1.56.879 was less than half-a-second away from the top three.
Crutchlow produced a performance that demonstrated his incredible courage and determination as he finished just over 0.5s behind Edwards in 14th position. Crutchlow lost the tip of his left little finger when he crashed on the second night of testing on Monday evening and rode tonight in considerable discomfort.
The British rider had to use a modified clutch lever to ease the stress on his badly damaged finger and he clocked a best time of 1.57.429 in 17-laps. He too concentrated on fine-tuning the set-up of his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine to suit the harder compound Bridgestone tyre. But it was a late front-end change that boosted his confidence and helped him lap nearly 0.5s faster than he managed during the test earlier this week.
Colin Edwards, 10th - 1'56.879:
"I actually feel really good on the bike but unfortunately I am not quite fast enough at the moment. The number beside my name on the timesheets doesn't look that good but I'm actually better off than the charts suggest. I'm missing those crucial two or three tenths but I'm confident I can find it. We just need to get the bike to turn just a little bit better and I'm sure if we can work in that area, we'll find that time I'm losing. But I did my best lap on the hard tyre right at the end, so that gives me a lot of confidence with a couple more changes to the bike that I can be higher up. I think a lot of the guys in front of me ran the soft tyre, so the race set-up isn't that far away. I got with (Andrea) Dovizioso on the Honda and behind Valentino (Rossi) and our package is pretty strong, bu t the times tonight prove how competitive it is going to be this season."
Cal Crutchlow, 14th - 1'57.429:
"That was not easy at all and being honest, the pain from the finger is really bad and it was tough to ride. The crash was only three days ago and when I took the bandage off tonight, I learned there's some nerve damage where the fingernail was. The pain when the bandage came off was something I can't describe, so considering how uncomfortable it is, I'm pretty pleased to be where I am and doing some decent times. I was having trouble using the clutch so I modified the lever, but I was still having some problems shifting, particularly at the first corner when I kept going down to first instead of second. That was costing me time but I couldn't do anything about it. We made a change to the front-end at the end of the session that we haven't t ried since Sepang and it felt night and day different. I was much faster and felt much more comfortable because I felt like the front tyre was loaded more in the corner and I could turn better. I'm looking forward to working more with the new front-end set-up tomorrow because I believe we can make another step and hopefully the finger will be a little bit better too."
Strong first session for Repsol Honda Team in Qatar
At 19h55 local time, the first session of the 2011 season started at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. This seemed a continuation from the test that took place earlier this week, with conditions almost identical.
Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner retained his position at the top of the timing sheets with a time of 1'55.752 and completed a total of 16 laps spending the evening fine tuning set-up for the weekend. His team mate Dani Pedrosa followed closely behind and completed 18 laps in the forty-five minute session. He experienced a rare issue with the rear tyre, a medium compound already used during winter testing with no problem, which his team and Bridgestone need to properly understand. Andrea Dovizioso had some vibration on the front end and he and his team will continue to work on this when Free Practice continues tomorrow at 18h00 local time.
Earlier in the afternoon, pre-season photos were taken for the world's media outlets. The Repsol Honda Team also took this opportunity to show their support for Japan in this difficult time, with a Japanese flag on their bikes accompanied by a supporting message of hope, to not give up fighting: "Ganbare Japan!".
CASEY STONER – 1st - 1'55.752
"We started of where we left on Monday and used more or less the same set-up - the wind is a little stronger than we had in the test but the track condition feels pretty good. We need to improve rear edge grip, this is an area we've struggled with a little so we need to improve that which will give us better turn in and exit from the corner. I'd say we're about 80% complete on the bike package, we have a few main areas we can improve, but this is always the case - you can always improve something, and if we do in these areas it will makes us a lot more confident. I did the whole session with the same rear hard tyre and I was happy with it from the beginning to the end, and this is good for the race. Finally the season has started, everything has gone fantastic so far but we need to be realistic and keep focused".
DANI PEDROSA – 2nd - 1'56.362
"I had a problem with the rear tyre that we need to understand. It's the first issue we've had this winter with the tyres, so I hope it's an exception to the rule. We started the practice very well, we were fast in the first exit and then we stayed with the same tyre, the softer compound, for the whole session. Even if I used the same compound during the winter test without any problem for several laps, today already in the second round I felt it dropped down a lot, and in the third and last one it was even worse. With only 45 minutes practice, the rounds are very short and you don't have much time to make changes. Maybe the tyre had a problem, maybe it dropped down a lot because with 125cc and Moto2 bikes on track the conditions were very different comparing with the test of few days ago, we don't know exactly. Anyway, the Grand Prix weekend just started and we will try with another tyre tomorrow to understand more. I hope we can take the best profit of both practices sessions to prepare for the race in a good way".
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 8th - 1'56.592
"With four days of practice it is important to manage the tyres so today we used only the hard compound to save the soft tyres for tomorrow and the coming days as I expect it will only be possible to use the soft rear tyre for the race. The biggest problem today was a vibration on the front when I released the brake and this limited me a lot because I was not able to push and lean as I wanted. We need to understand this problem and solve it as soon as possible. Tonight my engineers will analyse the data and we will see how to improve this issue. I am not happy about my lap time, but I am confident that we can improve because I feel that we have margin. Today, I'm very proud as Italy celebrates it's 150th anniversary of unity as a Country, so I have a special sticker on my helmet to commemorate this".
SIMONCELLI SHINES IN QATAR
Marco Simoncelli carried his preseason form into the first official session of the MotoGP World Championship this afternoon in the surreal surroundings of the Losail circuit. The Team San Carlo Honda Gresini rider was fast and consistent and worked intensely throughout a satisfactory 45 minutes to find an improved set-up for his machine. It was a positive evening for Hiroshi Aoyama even though he was further down the time sheets, the Japanese rider clearly working on the right lines with his team and set-up, which will hopefully lead them to a better position tomorrow.
Marco Simoncelli (4th 1' 56" 441 ) "I am really happy because it is always difficult during testing to know exactly where you are but that changes when things get serious and we are able to make more a concrete analysis. I am satisfied because we struggled to get the hard tyre working during the tests but we found something tonight. It may be that the conditions are slightly different but it is an important step towards making our choice for the race. We managed to make two changes to the set-up that improved things further and now it is just a case of confirming what we already know and getting ready for Sunday. In general I am feeling confident."
Hiroshi Aoyama (12th 1'' 56" 987) "This was the first session of the season so I was keen to do well. We started work on finding the best set-up for Sunday and the best feeling with the bike, working from what we learned in testing. We also tried to get closer to a decision on what tyre to use for the race. The conditions are better than they were in testing and tomorrow we will try to improve on today's position, which is actually not that important because our focus for the day was not specifically on the lap time."
Fausto Gresini "Overall it has been a positive first session with Marco Simoncelli running really well, so I am happy. The lap times are good and apart from Stoner everybody is separated by just a few tenths. He tried two different settings and was strong on both but he has a preference so with a few more little modifications we will be ready for the race. Hiroshi Aoyama didn't have a bad session either – definitely better than his position suggests – so I am sure he can also have a good start to the season. We are confident and over the next two days we will be working to improve further but for now we are happy and that is very important."
Stoner fastest after windy opening practice session in Qatar
Round 1: Qatar GP – Free Practice One
Losail International Circuit, Thursday 17 March 2011
Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Medium, Extra Hard. Rear: Medium, Hard
The first Grand Prix of the 2011 season got underway today under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. In a change to the usual timings, brought about by the night-time schedule, riders took to the circuit for 45minutes tonight for the first official free practice session of the weekend.
Amid blustery conditions, Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner finished fastest using harder option front and rear slick tyres, just ahead of teammate Dani Pedrosa with a fine performance from Hector Barbera and the Mapfre Aspar Team putting them third overall.
The Losail region has been hit by high winds and low temperatures since the test on Sunday and Monday night and the circuit is dirty and sandy, making it slippery yet abrasive. This is the main reason that most riders favoured the extra hard compound front tyre as it has greater wear resistance and durability, although even the softer front was tried by many and worked well. With the low track temperature which reached just 21 degrees Celsius, the softer option rear slicks offer greater traction but were more susceptible to graining because of the sand.
Last year, when the Qatar Grand Prix was held in April, the first free practice was run from 2230hrs and the track temperature was 30 degrees Celsius, with 27 degrees ambient temperature. Today however, even though the session was run at 1955hrs, track and ambient temperatures were significantly cooler at just 21 degrees Celsius.
The next free MotoGP practice session will run tomorrow evening at 1800hrs local time.
Hirohide Hamashima – Director, Bridgestone Motorsport Tyre Development
"Conditions this week in Qatar have been tricky with a lot of wind and cold temperatures, both of which make it more difficult for both the riders and our tyres. The area surrounding the circuit is desert so the winds bring a lot of powder-like sand onto the circuit, making it dirty and slippery. The temperature tonight was also markedly cooler than it was here last year, because it is run three weeks earlier in the year.
"Most riders favoured the softer rear tyre although we saw some graining today because of the sand. Usually a circuit cleans throughout the weekend and graining gets less but here, and because the wind is higher than usual, sand is continually blown onto the circuit so this will be a setup consideration for the teams. Some riders used both specs of front tyre during the session and I can say that both are working well and there were no problems."
First session blues for Rizla Suzuki
Publish Date: Thursday, March 17, 2011
Rizla Suzuki's first practice session of the 2011 MotoGP season did not go to plan in Qatar tonight.
Álvaro Bautista (P16, 1'58.528, 15 laps) returned to the pit-box shortly after taking to the Losail track, suffering with arm-pump caused by a combination of a new brake system and brand new gloves – both required after his huge 250km/h crash in Monday's test. The situation did not improve during the remainder of the short 45-minute session and Bautista's best time was over 1.5 seconds behind his best test lap.
Bautista will have two sessions tomorrow to rectify the situation and get back on course as he continues his preparations for Sunday's race. Today's quickest time was set by Casey Stoner on a Honda.
Rizla Suzuki will be in race action on Sunday 20th March, when the MotoGP season kicks off with the first round of the year under the impressive floodlights at Qatar.
"The words I want to say cannot be used in a press release! It was an impossible practice because we wanted to try a different setting, but I had a problem with the front brake feeling right from the beginning and after that I also had some pain in my right arm – which was probably because I had new gloves on and they were too tight – so I wasn't able to ride like I can. At the end I used the other bike, but the problem hadn't gone away. I think we need to forget today and concentrate on tomorrow because we have two more practices to improve things."
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
"Unfortunately we wasted 45 minutes of good track time tonight and got absolutely nothing done. We had an issue that didn't come up all through the test, which meant Álvaro wasn't able to ride the bike properly. We will have to find our rhythm quickly in FP2 tomorrow and pretend that our Grand Prix weekend starts on a Friday as normal!"
THE 2011 MOTOGP SEASON HAS OFFICIALY STARTED. AFTER THE FIRST SESSION DE PUNIET NINTH AND CAPIROSSI THIRTEENTH
The 2011 MotoGP season has officially started this evening in Doha, where the riders of the Pramac Racing Team have completed the first laps of the Grand Prix of Qatar. The duo white green had access to a session of 50 minutes to improve their bikes for Sunday's race. Randy De Puniet has kept the good lap times recorded in the last tests finishing today in ninth place, just one second away from today's fastest, Casey Stoner. His teammate, Loris Capirossi, tried different technical solutions to find the right feeling with the bike after the crash on the last day of testing. Loris finished in thirteenth position. Tomorrow, MotoGP riders will have two practice sessions before the only session on Saturday valid for the starting grid of the Grand Prix of Qatar.
Marco Rigamonti – Randy De Puniet Track Engineer
"At first we had a small problem: Randy could not change gear properly due to new boots and this has made us change our initial plans because we lost some time. He has tried the new electronics and was very happy with the response of the bike. We can be confident on the work done by our new rider, he has been experiencing the best lap time with hard tires after about 20 laps. If the track conditions are the same, he can do even better tomorrow."
Randy De Puniet - Pramac Racing rider – 9th best lap time in 1'56.790
"I started today's session with some complications with the right boot that gave me some problems when changing gears down specially in the first corner. Solved this problem, we had three good outings with lap times very close to the best and this allows me to maintain a good position. The feelings that I had riding today are similar to the one I had during the last test and maintain this rate we will have a good race weekend. I am happy with how we are working, I don't have a specific goal, but be the first satellite rider and fight with some official rider would be a good start."
Loris Capirossi – Pramac Racing rider – 13th best lap time in 1'57.366
"I found the pace of the first day of testing, because Monday due of my slip, I was not able to make good lap times. We tried different tires, but the harder compound solution is the one that, in these climates conditions, it gives us more confidence. I do not feel satisfied, thirteenth place is definitely not our goal, but I am optimistic for the next rounds."
Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo Start the Season in Qatar
Yamaha Factory Racing riders Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo finally made a start to the 2011 MotoGP season tonight under the floodlights of the International Losail Circuit in Qatar. Tackling his first official race weekend practice as a factory rider, Spies spent his session on just one set of tyres which were not the best for the track. Despite this the American rider was consistently quick throughout the free practice, ending in confident mood ahead of tomorrow's second session in sixth place, just 0.131 seconds from second.
On the other side of the garage reigning World Champion Lorenzo had a more fruitful evening session, making big progress from his test here a few days ago. The crew went back to a tried and tested set up from 2010 which delivered more confidence for the young Mallorcan. The data from the free practice give him a clear direction to improve towards qualifying on Saturday night. Lorenzo ended the session in seventh place, just 0.093 seconds behind his team mate.
As a mark of support for those suffering following the disaster in Japan both Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo will carry the message "With You, Japan" in both English and Japanese on their M1's for the weekend.
Ben Spies, Yamaha Factory Racing Rider, 6th, 1'56.493 (17 laps)
"Everything went really smooth, we made two major changes to the bike, one was better, one wasn't. We spent the whole time on tyres we hope are the worst for the track, a front I don't like and a harder rear and we matched our time from the test. I'm happy that we've made the bike a bit better, if we go to what we think is better with the tyres we should have a few tenths."
Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing Rider, 7th, 1'56.586 (18 laps)
"Today we used a set up from last year here, I feel much more used to it so I am a lot more happy. I think if we improve the setting some more tomorrow we can really step forward. With the new chassis I can make faster corner speed here so the 2011 chassis is working well. I think we will all be closer to the front on Sunday night."
Wilco Zeelenberg, Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
"A very good practice for us, even when the position is not so good. The last test we did a long run and Jorge was not so happy with the set up and was a bit disappointed. Finally the improvement and changes we made today have resulted in a good test and a better feeling for him. This means he can now be consistent, that is his strong point. From now on we will be moving forwards."
Massimo Meregalli, Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
"We had a good response on Ben's side, we used only one set of tyres during the session and it wasn't the optimum tyre so this gives us confidence. After two previous tests Jorge has now found a better set up which is promising for the weekend. All in all the team has made a good start and we are looking forward to making the next step tomorrow to get closer to our set up for the race."
GOOD START IN QATAR FOR THE DUCATI MARLBORO TEAM
The 2011 MotoGP World Championship officially kicked off tonight at Losail International Circuit with the first Free Practice session of the Grand Prix of Qatar.
It was a positive first day for the Ducati Marlboro Team, with Valentino Rossi fifth at the end of the 45 minute session, and more importantly, pleased with the work carried out on the Desmosedici's setup.
Nicky Hayden started quite well, immediately matching his best time from the test, and although in the end he didn't achieve the pace that he wanted, he has a variety of solutions to try in the coming days.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) 5th, 1:56.479
"We're all pretty satisfied with this first free practice because we worked well throughout the entire session, progressively improving with each outing. We modified the setup a little compared to the test, and we immediately found it to be better, to the point that within just a few laps, I improved on my time from Monday. The last run was particularly positive and my final lap time, done with a hard tyre that had 19 laps on it, was my best, a bit more than a tenth off of second place. We know that if we want to have a good race on Sunday, we have to cut another five tenths, and we'll try to do that tomorrow. Anyway, although we still have to improve some more things on the bike, now I don't have to push so hard and it is turning better. The shoulder is holding up well. It was only at the end that it started to lose a little strength, and tomorrow we'll see how it reacts with two practice sessions. In any case, we're happy today."
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team) 11th, 1:56.910
"It was certainly nice to be back in action that counted a bit more. We had a bit of wind, and the temperature wasn't really high, but for as much sand as we've seen blowing around the last couple of days, the track was in great condition. The session started out pretty well. I immediately went out with a hard rear tyre and a soft front, which isn't my favorite setup, and I was able to match my lap time from the test by the fourth lap. I felt quite good, but from there, I never really was able to improve much. Obviously everybody else got quicker, so I'm not thrilled with that time. The bike was similar to how it was in the test. We've got some more opportunities before Sunday night, so we'll keep trying to improve."
HÉCTOR BARBERÁ CLOCKS FASTEST TOP SPEED AND THIRD FASTEST LAP IN QATAR
MAPFRE Aspar rider is surprise package on opening night of the season, clocking 326.6 km/h at Losail
Even though today was a Thursday the opening Grand Prix of the season got underway tonight in Qatar, with an extra day of practice allowing for a shorter daily schedule due to the decreasing temperatures later in the evening. In MotoGP the action started with a single free practice session that gave the riders the opportunity to get into the swing of serious competition, having tested here just three days ago. Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner continued their dominance at the top of the time sheets but the big surprise tonight was the name of their closest pursuer: MAPFRE Aspar rider Héctor Barberá.
For the team and for Barberá himself it was not so much of a surprise, however, with the Spaniard having worked hard over the winter. It is early days yet but he is reaping the fruit of that hard work already, refining the set-up he found in testing herer to lap consistently around the 1'57 mark. A soft tyre at the end of tonight session allowed him to dip into the 1'56s and a best effort of 1'56.421 left him third fastest overall and as the leading Ducati rider overnight. The fastest top speed of the night - 326.6km/h - was an added bonus.
3rd Héctor Barberá 1.56.421 (18 laps): "It is fair to say we have made a good start and we are doing a good job. Over the winter we have been doing our homework and towards the end of the preseason we knew things were going well - even if the lap times weren't there the feeling was. It is the first serious practice session of the season and maybe third place isn't an accurate reflection but we have still made a big step forward. The team has worked well all winter and luckily today we were able to see the benefit of that. Every time I ride the Ducati I feel more comfortable and the test at the begnning of the week was a good chance for us to work our base setting out. Our pace of high 56s to low 57s is good but we have to improve it by another half a second if we want to be fighting for a good position in the race on Sunday."