|— Yamaha Report
The third Grand Prix of the season got underway in France this afternoon and Valentino Rossi started the weekend in strong form by finishing the first practice on top of the standings. His team-mate and last year’s race winner Jorge Lorenzo finished third on an unusually sunny day at the famous Le Mans 24-Hour track.
Rossi and his crew had made some significant improvements to their setting during the Jerez test and they were rewarded with immediate gratification today, as the Italian felt comfortable and fast on his M1 right from the start. Le Mans is accepted as a good track for Yamaha and it looked just that today as the World Champion lapped consistently in the top three before moving into first with his final lap. This was despite some lingering pain in his recovering shoulder, which he hopes will ease as the weekend progresses.
Lorenzo, who recently turned 23, was masterful in the wet here last year and looked equally happy in today’s sunshine, overcoming a small electronics problem at the start to find a good setting and turn out a string of laps in the 1’34s. He finished the session in third behind Casey Stoner and just 0.140 seconds off his team-mate.
Valentino Rossi – Position: 1stTime: 1’34.402Laps: 28
“I’m really happy about this practice and especially about my last lap, which was very quick. During the test after Jerez we got a better understanding of the problems we had and managed to improve our setting a lot, and that’s where we’ve started from today. It’s good to be this fast already. Unfortunately I still have some pain in my shoulder in the two or three hard braking areas, but I hope with the adrenaline tomorrow and Sunday it will be better and won’t cause a problem. Our bike is historically very good here and it feels great in the twisty parts especially, so we’re hopeful for a good weekend.”
Jorge Lorenzo – Position: 3rd Time: 1’34.542Laps: 31
“At the start of the session we had a small problem on one bike with the electronics but we swapped to the other bike and things were okay from there. Little by little I found a good pace and at the end I was able to do a lot of laps in the ’34s. My bike feels good here – as everyone says it is always a good track for Yamaha – and although we are still struggling a bit in the acceleration I am feeling good.”
Davide Brivio – Team Manager
“A good first session; our job went quite smoothly. We just made a few small adjustments and the results were good, so we’re working in the right way. The only issue is that Valentino still has some pain in his right shoulder, which is disturbing him a bit in the hard braking areas. Anyway despite this we were fastest so we’ve done a good job and now we’ll look to continue with a few small improvements tomorrow.”
Wilco Zeelenberg – Team Manager
“We’re pleased with our start today and we were very consistent in practice. We had a few small problems at the beginning but we solved them quickly and then worked on two different settings, comparing them and finding some plus and minus points to both. Jorge’s lap time is already good and he’s third and very close. Tomorrow we will look at ways to make some more small steps to hopefully gain a couple of tenths, but this is a good start.”
Fast start for Tech 3 in home race
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team made a positive start to its all-important home race at the Le Mans circuit in France today.
Colin Edwards overcame an early set-up issue to impressively climb his way up the rankings into sixth position at the session’s conclusion, the Texan ending with a best time of 1.35.089 in a closely contested opening practice that saw the top eight split by less than a second.
The iconic Le Mans circuit has been a happy hunting ground for Edwards with two of his 11 MotoGP podium finishes scored at the French venue. And Edwards finished just 0.100s behind Dani Pedrosa to finish top satellite team rider.
Ben Spies took full advantage of the hot conditions to demonstrate once again that he needs little time to master a new circuit and post competitive times against the world’s elite MotoGP riders.
Spies has never ridden at Le Mans previously but he was instantly able to set a consistently fast pace in the 1.35 bracket as temperatures soared to 28 degrees. As his confidence grew, Spies climbed into the top six at one stage before he settled for a hugely encouraging eighth position. Spies again accomplished his first objectives to finish inside the top ten and be less than a second off the quickest pace. The 25-year-old’s best time of 1.35.291 was just 0.889s away from Valentino Rossi’s best pace and just over 0.2s away from a place in the top six. Spies is confident that overnight set-up changes to his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine will enable him to narrow the gap to the leading group and improve his position on the timesheets tomorrow.
Colin Edwards – Position: 6thTime: 1’35.089Laps: 26
“I am not as happy or comfortable as I thought I would be at this track. I know this is a good track for me and also the Yamaha, but at the moment I just don’t have the comfort level to enable me to push as hard as I know I can. I don’t feel comfortable going into the corner and on the exit I’m losing too much. I had the same sort of issue at the last two races and even though I’ve got a completely different balance on the bike now, I still seem to be struggling. I need the bike to be a bit smoother and less nervous. We can make it better and I know my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 will figure something out because they always do. I don’t think the set-up is that far away but I just need to refine it. This is a massive race for Tech 3 and Monster, so I’m determined to improve and put on a good show on Sunday.”
Ben Spies – Position: 8thTime: 1’35.291Laps: 27
“It was a pretty good session. Early on the main focus is just to learn the track and I felt good pretty much all over the track apart from a couple of points that I figured out right at the end to get in a good lap time. The track doesn’t have anything super tricky to learn but I’ve still got to get my bearings at Turn One a little bit, but for just one hour I got a lot accomplished. We can make some changes and I’m sure we can find a bit of time in the bike. The front-end can be dialled in a little bit better. But because I don’t really have the experience at this track, it is hard to know what the bike is capable of. But I feel like there’s a couple of tenths in the bike and me. I’m under a second off the best time and in the top ten and that is my target right now. I don’t believe in the next session I’ll be running at the front, but I can certainly cut the gap and move up a bit more.”
— Ducati Report
Ducati Marlboro Team riders Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden made discreet starts to the opening free practice for the Grand Prix de France but they were both satisfied with their performance by the end of session, with Stoner able to reflect on the second fastest outright lap and Hayden happy in seventh.
In ideal conditions, with blue skies and warm sunshine contributing to track temperatures of 44ºC – a pleasurable rarity for this circuit – the Australian took a few laps to get up to speed as his team made adjustments to a new set of handlebars, before closing to within less than three tenths of the circuit record as he secured top spot overnight. The American, meanwhile, has traditionally struggled to get up to speed at a circuit he rates amongst his least favourite but he was able to gradually climb the order today with a host of tweaks to the base set-up that served him so well at the opening two races in Qatar and Spain.
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 2nd (1’34.508)
“To be honest we had a fairly good session. It didn’t start off so well because we’re trying some new handlebars – we’ve made them a lot stronger so that if we ever have a small ‘off’ in a race we’ve got a better chance of picking the bike up and continuing. This has been a problem for us a couple of times in the past and even though the track conditions were perfect today you never know what can happen with the weather at Le Mans! We didn’t have the position quite right at the start so we had to spend a little time fixing that but from there on we made gradual progress. The initial feeling with the bike wasn’t great but it felt better once we stiffened things up both front and rear. Always when you go stiffer you lose a little grip so it was a case of playing around with the rear suspension and tyre pressures to find some traction. By the end I felt comfortable and we’re satisfied to be in the hunt because we feel this is a circuit that maybe suits some of our rivals more than us.”
NICKY HAYDEN – (Ducati Marlboro Team) 7th (1’35.223)
“For some reason whenever I come to Le Mans nothing comes to me real easy and that was certainly the case for a bit today. For the last run the team did a great job, changing a few things with the electronics to get more traction and less pumping and also a change to the rear shock that improved the feeling quite a lot. That gave me a half second over the last couple of laps and the feeling was a lot better. We’re still a long way from the front group but I definitely feel better after that last run and hopefully we found a direction. I always expect a hard weekend here and this one won’t be any different but I’m feeling positive after today.”
— Repsol Honda
The Grand Prix of France weekend got under way today with the first hour of practice taking place in welcome warm sunshine at Le Mans. The Repsol Honda RC212Vs of Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa finished the session in fourth and fifth positions, with both setting lap times within striking distance of today’s fastest rider, Valentino Rossi. They are confident of moving further forward in qualifying tomorrow.
Dovizioso was fast out of the blocks in today’s sole session, holding the second quickest time early in the hour before spending time on fine machine settings and evaluating the two compounds of Bridgestone tyres available. At the end of the session the 24-year-old Italian once again went into attack mode and produced a lap time of 1m 34.625s, which was less than a quarter of a second behind the fastest time. The 24-year-old Italian was riding with the latest evolution chassis he tested on Monday after the last race at Jerez.
Pedrosa will take part in his 150th Grand Prix on Sunday and began his weekend with a respectable fifth place and a best lap time of 1m 34.989s. This is still some distance off the current pole position lap record Pedrosa set at Le Mans two years ago and the Spaniard will be determined to climb the timesheets and repeat his pole from last year when qualifying takes place tomorrow afternoon. Like his team-mate, Pedrosa was riding with a slightly modified fairing on his RC212V designed for enhanced aerodynamic performance.
With clear skies forecast at Le Mans for the rest of the weekend, the MotoGP paddock is looking forward to a rare event: a Grand Prix of France weekend unaffected by wet weather.
ANDREA DOVIZIOSO – 4th 1m 34.625s +0.223.s
”I’m happy about how we started here at Le Mans. I didn’t do the maximum number of laps this afternoon because we were working in the garage to make some changes to the settings – but I had three laps where I could push and I’m happy with my lap times and the feeling with the bike. At the beginning of the session we were working on the power control settings and making some adjustments to improve the rideability, and I’m confident we’re working in the right direction. Le Mans is a track that I like and it’s really a pleasure to ride with this nice weather. Long may it continue.”
DANI PEDROSA – 5th 1m 34.989s +0.587s
”Well this was a fairly normal first Friday session and the feeling today was positive. Obviously we were working a lot to find a good base setting for this circuit in these conditions and we haven’t found the perfect set-up yet, but I’m sure we can improve it a lot tomorrow. I tested some electronics settings that I didn’t feel 100 per cent comfortable with, so we’ll analyse the data with the team and I’m confident that tomorrow I can make a big step forward. It’s good to have these weather conditions straight away here in Le Mans because usually we lose some set-up time with bad weather.”
TOSHIYUKI YAMAJI – REPSOL HONDA TEAM MANAGER
”We did a lot of set-up work in all areas today and both riders made progress and we have plenty of options to work on and improve. The warm conditions today were not typical for Le Mans but if the weather is stable then both riders have a good chance of finding a good setting for the race. Andrea’s pace was good especially towards the end of the session, and Dani can make a significant step forward tomorrow, so we’re looking in good shape.”
— Suzuki Report
Rizla Suzuki’s Álvaro Bautista had to contend with severe discomfort and pain during the first practice session at Le Mans in France today.
Bautista suffered a broken collarbone just over a week ago and had surgery to plate the break only last Friday, but he worked hard on his fitness during the last seven days and was back in the saddle of his Suzuki GSV-R for this afternoon’s session. He battled manfully for 19 laps of 4,185m French track, recording a fastest time of 1’37.525. Bautista used no pain-killing treatment before today’s session and will re-assess his condition after tomorrow morning’s final practice session to judge whether he is fit enough to race on Sunday.
Loris Capirossi (P11, 1’35.685, 23 laps) had a strong and productive first day. He only used one set of Bridgestone tyres for the whole session and is confident that tomorrow will bring a more positive result. He was in-touch with the front group throughout the day and will be determined to be right in amongst that group on race-day. Today’s practice was held in warm and sunny conditions with air temperatures getting up to 28ºC. Valentino Rossi on his factory Yamaha set the fastest time of the day.
Rizla Suzuki has one more hour of free practice on Saturday morning, followed by an hour of qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday’s 28-lap race gets underway at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT) when hopefully both Rizla Suzuki riders will line up on the grid.
Álvaro Bautista: “I thought that I would feel better today than I do! I have worked very hard this week to be fit and I was confident that I would be able to ride the bike. It was very difficult though, because after two or three laps I started to lose energy and my left arm was hurting a lot and I couldn’t ride like I wanted to. Tomorrow I will have a pain-killing injection and hopefully the pain will be less. I will then make a decision if I continue with the weekend, today the maximum I felt I could do was five laps and the race is 28, so I still have a long way to go. I will try with the injection and see if things improve.”
Loris Capirossi: “I did the whole session with one set of tyres – and on my own – so I could see where we were at. It was a pretty good session, but right at the end we made a different setting that didn’t work at all, so that was a bit disappointing. We do have a good base to work on now and we will definitely improve tomorrow. Everything seems to be going ok at the moment, so we hope things stay that way and we’ll have good weekend.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager: “Álvaro chose to ride today with no pain-killers and no injection, to assess exactly where he was at and he certainly lost his sun-tan over the course of the session! Motorcycle racers are a tough breed, but there comes a point when pain and lack of strength will win the day. Hopefully with some physiotherapy tonight and the injection in the morning, we’ll be in a better position to understand if a full race distance on Sunday is possible.
“I think Loris is in a stronger position that the timesheet shows. He used the same tyres for the whole session and the final setting unfortunately took us back a couple of steps. I think Loris can improve a lot tomorrow and get close to the fight with the front group.”
— Bridgestone Report
Rossi fastest in opening practice on new rear Bridgestone slick Round 3: France GP – Free Practice Le Mans, Friday 21 May 2010 Bridgestone slick compounds available: Front: Soft, Medium. Rear: Soft, Medium (asymmetric – Med. only)
Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi finished on top of the timesheets after the first free practice in Le Mans, using a harder asymmetric rear Bridgestone slick that is available to all riders for the first time here in Le Mans. After the first session in France and with a record high track temperature, his best lap was just 0.2seconds off his existing lap record set on Bridgestone tyres in 2008.
The temperature for the opening session of the French Grand Prix was uncharacteristically high. Reaching a peak of 43 degrees Celsius, it was the hottest track temperature recorded at the venue during a MotoGP session. Despite the hotter-than-expected track temperature, half the field used the soft Bridgestone slicks front and rear at the start of the hour-long practice and they provided consistent performance.
Casey Stoner used just one front tyre and one soft rear tyre for the entire session and set his best lap at the end of his run to finish second fastest. The Ducati Team rider was closely followed by Jorge Lorenzo in third and Andrea Dovizioso in fourth, the top four separated by less than a quarter of a second.
Tohru Ubukata – Manager, Bridgestone Motorcycle Tyre Development Department
“The track temperature was very high today, the hottest in France in the MotoGP era, so I am pleased that even our soft slicks provided good stability and consistency in these conditions. I think that the performance they showed even with a track temperature of 43 degrees Celsius is a good example of the wider temperature operating range of our tyres, and an indication that our newly-improved soft compound rubber is successful.
“Some riders used just one set of tyres for the session, including Casey who used a single hard front and soft rear to complete 23 laps and set his fastest on lap 19. Most riders favoured the harder front slick but the rear tyre compound choices were much more mixed. I can say that the asymmetric rear tyre provides better stability on the right side of the tyre, which is particularly beneficial for acceleration exiting turns four, twelve and thirteen, and I am happy with their performance. The top two riders each used a different rear tyre, so this shows that there is great cross-over between both available specs and tyre choice comes down to rider preference and bike setup.”