Pedrosa quickest under lights at Qatar from Stoner
The final preparations of the 2011 MotoGP pre-season commenced at the Losail International Circuit on Sunday, as the premier class completed the first of two days of night-time testing at the track which will host the opening round of the campaign next weekend.
Under the floodlights it was Dani Pedrosa who found the fastest pace with a best lap of 1’56.271, an effort which left him top of the day one timesheet by the close of play at 11pm local time. The Repsol Honda rider set out in search of his set-up for the Qatar GP, and also tested new suspension, a workload which appeared to go smoothly judging by his lap time.
Just 0.143s behind and in second place was the Spaniard’s team-mate Casey Stoner, the man who had been fastest at the previous Test at Sepang. Stoner, like his team-mate and the majority of the 17 MotoGP riders present, worked on his race set-up and also his riding position, and posted a best time of 1’56.414 by the end of the day.
Completing an all-Honda top three was San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Hiroshi Aoyama. The Japanese spent the early part of the session assessing the track conditions, and found his rhythm soon enough with a best time of 1’56.444 on his 30th of 59 laps, just three-hundredths behind factory man Stoner.
At 0.292s off Pedrosa’s lead time, Factory Yamaha Racing rider Ben Spies (1’56.563) placed fourth with team-mate and World Champion Jorge Lorenzo fifth. The American focused his energies on chassis geometry and electronics, and will run a tyre test on Monday. Lorenzo sought to improve the rear grip on his factory M1, and was 0.411s down on rival Pedrosa by the end of the day.
Colin Edwards did a tyre test to coincide with the race time later in the evening and the American was just under five-tenths off the top spot thanks to a 1’56.742. The final rider under the 1’57” marker for the day was third Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso with a 1’56.780, working on electronic mapping and trying to overcome the mid-corner problem he had last time out at Sepang.
Valentino Rossi and his Ducati Team colleague Nicky Hayden were the only two Desmosedicis inside the top ten on day one. The pair both ran two bikes, each with a different setting, to decide by the end of the day which base setting to go with. Hayden closed out at 0.866s off the top spot whilst Rossi survived a fall at Turn 9 after the opening hour to return to the track and register a 1’57.038 on his 57th and final turn, which left him 0.767s off Pedrosa and in eighth spot. The Italian’s team had already ruled out testing the flex chassis and 42mm Öhlins forks prior to the start, based on the feedback provided by Hayden’s team.
Randy de Puniet had a positive end to a tough day on the Pramac Racing GP11 machine, after the Frenchman had crashed twice. He escaped uninjured and put in a 1’57.143 right at the end to complete the top ten.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) was the last to get within a second of Pedrosa thanks to a 1’57.226. He was followed closely by Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) who had planned to run a race simulation on both days, and Héctor Barbera (Mapfre Aspar Team).
Loris Capirossi’s adaptation to the Pramac Racing Ducati continued as he rounded out day one in 14h spot, just ahead of rookie Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing), also on the GP11, who was bidding to find the right balance between the feeling with the front and rear of his machine. The Czech rider was just over two-tenths ahead of fellow rookie Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), whose aim was to learn the track under floodlights on his M1. LCR Honda’s Toni Elías completed the timesheet, with a best time of 1’58.250.
The second and final day of the Test is scheduled to run from 6pm-11pm local time tomorrow (Monday).
1. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team 1m 56.271s (41 laps)
2. Casey Stoner AUS Repsol Honda Team 1m 56.414s (32)
3. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini 1m 56.444s (59)
4. Ben Spies USA Yamaha Factory Racing 1m 56.563s (38)
5. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing 1m 56.682s (60)
6. Colin Edwards USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1m 56.742s (42)
7. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Repsol Honda Team 1m 56.780s (56)
8. Valentino Rossi ITA Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 57.038s (57)
9. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 57.137s (57)
10. Randy de Puniet FRA Pramac Racing Team 1m 57.143s (39)
11. Marco Simoncelli ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini 1m 57.226s (57)
12. Alvaro Bautista ESP Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1m 57.302s (61)
13. Hector Barbera ESP Mapfre Aspar Team 1m 57.325s (69)
14. Loris Capirossi ITA Pramac Racing Team 1m 57.437s (56)
15. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing 1m 57.499s (49)
16. Cal Crutchlow GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1m 57.737s (51)
17. Toni Elias ESP LCR Honda MotoGP 1m 58.250s (65)
– HRC Report
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda RC212V) kept alive Honda’s formidable record by taking the fastest time in the final pre-season test of the year under the lights of the Losail International Circuit in Doha, Qatar on a day when everyone in the Honda Racing Corporation family expressed their sympathy and prayers for the people of Japan. All three Repsol Honda riders wore black armbands as a mark of respect and to show solidarity with the victims and survivors of the devastating earthquake.
Honda riders have been fastest in every pre-season test to date and have frequently swept the top three spots. Today was no different. Pedrosa led the field with the fastest lap of the evening, followed by team-mate Casey Stoner, the Australian who’s instantly adapted to the Honda RC212V. Third place was a pleasant surprise, as Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini), always among the hardest workers in the class, finished a testing best third overall and within .173s of Pedrosa.
This test is of particular importance since it comes only days before the start of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship. The season kicks off here on Thursday evening with a unique four-day program. With testing in the evenings on Sunday and Monday, the riders will have a chance to gauge their performance when they line up for real only three days later.
Today it was clear that Pedrosa was ready to race. The Spaniard lapped the 5.380k circuit in the desert east of Qatar in 1m, 56.271s on the 28th of his 41 laps. The desert track was covered by a thin layer of sand, which suppressed lap times and which should be brushed off with more track time. Pedrosa believes that times will begin to come down once the track cleans up, though he’s starting from a position of power. The set-up here is much different than in Sepang, which gave the team the chance to test a number of new solutions, which clearly have been effective.
This is a track that Stoner likes. The 25-year-old Australian won the race three years on the trot, from 2007 through 2009. The streak was broken last year when he had a front end while easing away from the field. Otherwise his dominance might stretch over four years.
Having done most of the development testing in Sepang, Stoner is concentrating on confirming the work that was done there with the season about to kick off. Like Pedrosa, he was focusing on race set-up, which is very different than in Sepang, as well as tyres. Stoner found more success with the softer compound, though his lap times varied little on the harder tyre.
Aoyama put in the second longest day of any of the Honda riders; only Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP RC212V) rode more laps. The 29-year-old Japanese was only .030s behind Stoner in a field that was tightly bunched. From Pedrosa in first to Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) in 11th, the field was covered by less than a second. And the entire 17-rider field was covered by less than two seconds.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) spent the evening working on electronics and set-up, specifically for the rear of the RC212V. The ultra-modern circuit is wider than most, which makes control of the rear crucial. And it was mid-corner where Dovizioso struggled the most in the Sepang tests.
Dovizioso ended the evening with the seventh fastest time, though he noted that the conditions kept lap times lower than last year, including his, and is confident of better on the second day.
Simoncelli was also off the form he’d shown in Sepang. The tall, lanky Italian with the bushy hair topped the time sheets in the early February test and finished third in the second test a few weeks later. Which means that the speed is there and that it’s just a matter of making a few adjustments to his factory Honda RC212V to get the most out of it.
Toni Elias was back at Losail on a MotoGP bike after a one year absence and in much better health than when he arrived for the race last year. The Spaniard had been injured in a pre-season combined 125cc and Moto2 test and was visibly hobbled. Elias will need to be at full strength as he adjusts to the Honda RC212V on another ‘new’ track.
The team was working on the rear suspension to find a solution to get more heat into the rear tyre.
The two-day test concludes tomorrow, after which the teams have three days to regroup for the start of practice.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) 1st, 1m, 56.271s “It was a positive first day of practice. We didn’t test anything in special, because our priority today was checking that the bike was also working well here in Qatar, a very different circuit than Sepang, where we did the main winter testing. We basically worked on the set-up of the bike, to adapt it for this layout and conditions, and tomorrow we will continue working on mappings and a front fork. It seems like the lap times are closer here than in Sepang, and I’m sure that the times will improve for all because at this track the surface is quite dirty at the beginning, so we will see tomorrow and I hope to make another step forward and close the winter test in a good shape. I’d also like to say I’m very sorry about what happened in Japan. My Japanese mechanics and engineers were explaining the situation there and it’s very moving.”
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) 2nd, 1m, 56.414s “Everything has gone well with the bike and in general we don’t have a whole lot to test here; we’re just trying to get more out of the balance of the bike – both bikes have the same chassis but we tried very different riding positions. It seems to be more difficult to get a decent lap time on the harder tyres, having made my fastest time on an older soft tyre, but our consistency seems to be very good also with the hardest compound. We’ve been trying to get a little bit more grip and turning out of the bike and work on set-up for this circuit, focusing on race set-up. It’s nice to be so close to the season and at the final test, I’m just pleased the team reached here safely and there were no casualties back in the HRC Headquarters in Saitama, my thoughts are with all the people in Japan.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) 3rd, 1m, 56.444s Pending
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) 7th, 1m, 56.780s “Today we tested mainly electronics settings, in particular the engine brake and traction control. We also focused on the set-up for this circuit because it’s different from all the other tracks as the angle of the curve is so wide and the critical point is the control of the rear. Considering that it’s the first day of testing I’m quite happy but it’s not enough. Everybody lapped slower than last year, I think this is due to the track condition. As a start it’s not bad, we are close to the fastest riders but we need to improve. I’d like to dedicate a thought to Japan, hit by a tremendous disaster. I hope they can recover soon in this very difficult moment.”
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) 1m, 57.226s Pending
Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP) 1m, 58.250s
“This is a ‘new track’ for us, so we are still studying the bike. We have been testing in Sepang and we had some issues there to find the proper setting for me. The guys have made some special parts for me for this test, some gave us small improvements and some did not help us. Basically we need to find the way to load the rear and just to warm up the rear tyre, which will be our main goal tomorrow”
– Ducati Report
With the opening round of the MotoGP world championship just around the corner, the Ducati Marlboro Team made steady progress during the first half of a two-night pre-season test at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit, where temperatures were around 23° (73° F) and track conditions decent. Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden both completed the evening solidly inside the top 10, and they look forward to taking further steps tomorrow.
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) 8th, 1:57.038 (57 laps)
“It wasn’t bad for a first day. I was able to ride the bike better, and I enjoyed myself. Although I was just eighth, my times aren’t too far from the top: seven tenths is still a big difference, but anyway it’s progress, considering that I did my best time with a very used tyre. We worked well on the settings, even if in a couple parts of the circuit I’m still not fast enough, and we’ll have to try some more solutions tomorrow. As for the shoulder, I’m happy because I have a little more strength, and that enables me to ride better. Today I also had my first crash on a Ducati, which I naturally did intentionally because after a while, you have to do a little fall…. All joking aside, I entered too quickly and lost the front: I was able to pick it up and avoid crashing while I was on the track, but I dropped it in the gravel—no big deal though.”
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team) 9th, 1:57.137 (57 laps)
“Right out of the gate, it wasn’t too bad, and then we were up against a wall for a while. The team made one little change with ride height and I was able to get a decent lap time and get consistent. In parts of the track I felt pretty good, but there are spots where the steering still needs to improve. If we can do better in those areas, we should be able to drop the lap time. I feel a little bit closer than Malaysia, but we certainly need to go quicker tomorrow.”
– Yamaha Report
Yamaha Factory Racing riders Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo made an impressive start to the last of the winter MotoGP tests under the floodlights of the Losail circuit in Qatar tonight. Both riders spent the session working on chassis set up and electronics for the upcoming season opening race this coming weekend. The session got underway at 1800 local time as the light faded and the floodlights came up, Lorenzo the first to take to the track.
By mid-session 2010 Rookie of the Year Spies had climbed to fastest rider, team mate and reigning World Champion Lorenzo was just 0.495 seconds behind in third. Spies ended the session in fourth position just 0.292 seconds from the front of the pack. Lorenzo completed an impressive 60 laps over the session, working corner by corner to improve stability and also taking time for an extended run. The Mallorcan wrapped up today in fifth, 0.411 seconds from the front.
Ben Spies, Yamaha Factory Racing Rider, 4th, 1’56.563 (38 laps)
“We made the bike go in a pretty good direction today and hopefully we can get a little bit more out of it. We want to try another tyre tomorrow that we haven’t used yet, all in all it’s been a good first session. The bike seems to be closer to the front than Malaysia and I’ve got pretty good expectations after the first day. The track is a lot more flowing here which suits our bike well; I think this should be a good track for us.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing Rider, 5th, 1’56.682 (60 laps)
“We tried a few different things on some corners today to try to make the bike more stable when I open the throttle; in almost all the gears we have done a good job. It seems we are closer to the Honda guys than in Sepang so I’m happy. We are going to continue and try a few different things tomorrow to try and find some more grip as well.”
Wilco Zeelenberg, Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“Our first test day and I’m satisfied with the results. Jorge did 60 laps and made the difference much smaller than Sepang. As we suspected when the temperatures are a bit colder we get a benefit. We did a small long run and the pace was good, a little bit slower than last year’s race pace so the track needs to be a bit cleaner. We confirmed everything we needed to test so everything is under control so far.”
Massimo Meregalli, Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“A good day, we tested two different set ups with Ben, both of which were working quite well. We will re-confirm them tomorrow then start with some other items. As a starting day as a team we can be satisfied, everything has worked well and smoothly on both sides of the garage.”
– Suzuki Report
Álvaro Bautista ended the first day of the Qatar test with a long run on his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R to give him a clear direction for next weekend’s race.
Bautista did a 22-lap run – the same as race distance at Qatar – at the end on the day to try and replicate the conditions he can expect during the race at the same time next Sunday. As track temperatures dropped and humidity rose, Bautista had many things to take into account as he circulated the 5,380m Losail Circuit. His lap-times and consistency were both very good and the team now has many pointers to work from as it prepares for next weekend.
Earlier in the evening Bautista tried some new geometry settings and a new Ohlins rear shock setting, which both produced positive results and will give the technicians some important information to work with. Bautista finished day one in 12th position on the timesheets, with a time of 1’57.302 from his 61 laps. Fellow Spaniard Dani Pedrosa topped the leader-board on his factory Honda.
Rizla Suzuki has one final day of pre-season testing at Qatar tomorrow, when Bautista and his crew have a thorough schedule to undertake as the countdown to the first race begins in earnest – with just seven days to go before the flag drops to signal the start of the new season.
Álvaro Bautista: “Today has been a lot of hard work and we are certainly clearer about some things for the race next week. We started the day with the softer compound tyres, but I didn’t feel very good on the exit of the corners because my bike was spinning a lot and I couldn’t open full gas on every corner. We tried to modify the spin control level and the software to get more from the grip levels and this helped a lot. I also tried the harder tyres, but it was also difficult to go fast with them at the beginning, so we made some changes to the bike and it was easier to go faster and I made my best lap of the day with those tyres. I did a long run at the end with the soft tyre because I wanted to know if it has the durability for the race, but my feeling was not too good because after a few laps it started to move around and was a lot more difficult to control than the harder one. We have made some good steps today because we have a very clear idea what we need to improve and tomorrow we will try a long run with the harder tyre to see how that performs. We hope we can get the maximum grip from the rear because this is the key point to go fast here.”
– LCR Report
Losail International circuit hosts the final MotoGP pre-season test with premier class Teams and riders involved in their 800cc machines last adjustments before the opening race at the same venue the following week. The two-night test in Qatar is the last chance for the 17 riders to fine tune their machines ahead the first round and Toni Elias and his colleagues have been putting their new bikes through their paces since 6.00 pm local time continuing their set up process at the 5.380 km race track till 11pm.
LCR Honda MotoGP racer Toni Elias produced a best lap time of 1’58.250 on lap 46 of 65 carrying out further development at the desert circuit where the air temperature reached the 25 degrees.
Elias: “This is a “new track” for us so we are still studying the bike. We have been testing in Sepang and we had some issues there to find the proper setting for me. The guys have made some special parts for me for this test: some gave us small improvements and some did not help us. Basically we need to find the way to load the rear and just to warm up the rear tyre which will be our main goal tomorrow”.