Stoner tops the charts once again; Rossi 13th on Ducati
Casey Stoner struck the final psychological blow prior to the start of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship by setting the fastest time of the Qatar Test on Monday, as the last pre-season meeting concluded with the Australian top of the timesheet. An effort of 1’55.681 from the Repsol Honda rider placed him 0.064s ahead of team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who was the only other rider under 1’56” during the session.
The pair, who spent the five-hour second session finalising their set-ups for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar which takes place at the circuit from Thursday to Sunday, were well clear of the rest of the field, with Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies third at a distant 0.549s further down on Pedrosa as the American sought improved grip on his M1.
The session got underway in difficult conditions with strong winds having dusted the track with a coating of sand, but after a slow start the riders began to adapt and competitive lap times were soon being laid down.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) closed the session with a best effort of 1’56.433, whilst Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) at just six-thousandths of a second behind made it four RC212Vs inside the top five on the timesheet as the latter Italian made headway with electronics settings. Randy de Puniet of the Pramac Racing team was the final rider to get within a second of Stoner’s time thanks to a late lap of 1’56.445, making him the highest-placing Ducati of the final day.
World Champion Jorge Lorenzo spent Monday in search of better acceleration in the lower gears, focusing on electronics and the swingarm on his M1. However, the defending World Champion ended up 1.026s down on Stoner and in seventh position. Close on his heels and also on an M1 was Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), with Ducati Team rider Nicky Hayden and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Hiroshi Aoyama completing the top ten and all within four-hundredths of a second of Lorenzo.
Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar) and Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) were next on the timesheet, both experiencing falls during the day, with Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) in 13th. The Italian also had a crash, at Turn 7, and closed the day 1.307s off top spot as his pre-season on the GP11 ended in a frustrating manner. His team-mate Hayden was one of a group of riders who fell inside the final hour.
Loris Capirossi on the Pramac Desmosedici suffered a similar fate and was eventually just under 1.7s off Stoner, with rookie Cal Crutchlow sustaining a finger injury on his left hand when his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine went down at Turn 10. The Brit was only able to complete 28 laps, finishing up 2.049s off top spot.
Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) and Toni Elías (LCR Honda) completed the timesheet, and the pair both had crashes inside the final hour of the session.
Day Two Results –
1. Casey Stoner AUS Repsol Honda Team 1m 55.681s (46)
2. Dani Pedrosa ESP Repsol Honda Team 1m 55.745s (39)
3. Ben Spies USA Yamaha Factory Racing 1m 56.294s (45)
4. Marco Simoncelli ITA San Carlo Honda Gresini 1m 56.433s (70)
5. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Repsol Honda Team 1m 56.439s (58)
6. Randy de Puniet FRA Pramac Racing Team 1m 56.445s (67)
7. Jorge Lorenzo ESP Yamaha Factory Racing 1m 56.707s (48)
8. Colin Edwards USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1m 56.716s (57)
9. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 56.726s (68)
10. Hiroshi Aoyama JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini 1m 56.740s (73)
11. Hector Barbera ESP Mapfre Aspar Team 1m 56.798s (62)
12. Alvaro Bautista ESP Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1m 56.931s (63)
13. Valentino Rossi ITA Ducati Marlboro Team 1m 56.988s (50)
14. Loris Capirossi ITA Pramac Racing Team 1m 57.345s (62)
15. Cal Crutchlow GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1m 57.730s (28)
16. Karel Abraham CZE Cardion AB Motoracing 1m 57.846s (49)
17. Toni Elias ESP LCR Honda MotoGP 1m 58.536s (57)
– HRC Report
Honda riders ended the pre-season with the top two times and five of the top six, on a day of difficult conditions at the Losail International Circuit outside the Qatari capital of Doha. The newest team member Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda RC212V) finished the test slightly quicker than team-mate Dani Pedrosa just days before the start of the championship.
The performance by Honda riders culminated an extraordinary and unprecedented pre-season in which Honda riders finished on top on all eight days of testing, six days in Sepang, Malaysia and here in Qatar for two days.
More than just bragging rights, the performance is indicative that both the riders and Honda technicians have done the work needed to be ready when the 2011 MotoGP World Championship kicks off this coming Thursday under the lights in Qatar.
Today’s test began after a sandstorm hit the circuit in the afternoon, covering the 5.380k circuit. When the winds died down, the riders began the final day of testing, with the track improving lap by lap as the surface improved.
Stoner, the winner here from 2007 through 2009, was encouraged by his form, having taken advantage of the final day to solidify his riding position. The 25-year-old Australian altered his position from Sepang, where he had a more rearward bias, to a more neutral seating position. Stoner and his team also worked on electronics and tyres, but mostly wanted to solidify their race settings.
Pedrosa finished with a lap time only .064s slower than his team-mate after initial concerns about the track surface. The desert winds blew across the track, but the grip was surprisingly good. In the cool conditions, Pedrosa was able to improve his lap times while testing a new front fork, electronics, and both the soft and harder tyres.
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) improved both his time and his position on the second day. The Italian jumped from eleventh on day one to the fourth fastest time on the day and overall, while improving his lap time by nearly a second. Simoncelli matched his pace against other riders and came away confident that he’ll be more than competitive when the season starts. Simoncelli, who’d been fastest at the first Sepang test, knows that there’s more work to be done, but with an extraordinary three days of practice and qualifying starting on Thursday, he believes the team has a direction that will put him among the leaders.
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda RC212V) spent the day working on corner entry and race settings, while running a race simulation to end the testing season. That he didn’t try the softer tyre meant his time wasn’t indicative of his form, though he admitted that the gap to his team-mates Stoner and Pedrosa was too much. Still, with the work from this test fresh on his mind, he plans to continue progressing when the season starts.
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) finished the day tenth fastest, but sixth overall for the two days. Aoyama was ready to go for an outright lap time, but the track temperature of a cool 18C didn’t allow him to get the most out of his Honda RC212V. Still, Aoyama is more confident at the start of his second year in the premier class than he was in his rookie year and hopeful of improved results.
Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP) wasn’t able to take advantage of the lap times afforded by the softer tyres, which meant his position wasn’t as high as it might have been. Elias was more affected than most riders by the adverse conditions, which kept him and his technical crew from carrying out their testing program. The 2010
Moto2 World Champion was working toward getting the proper balance on his Honda RC212V when he crashed, setting back his progress.
Now the teams have three days to recharge their batteries prior to Thursday evening, when practice begins.
Honda MotoGP Rider Quotes
Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) 1st, 1m, 55.681s “I’m really happy. I didn’t think we would get any laps in tonight judging from the weather earlier in the day, it was a little tough but the wind seemed to settle and the track conditions improved a lot and we got some good test time in tonight. By the look of the lap times everyone seems to have taken a big step forward, but we’re happy with what we’ve achieved again here and we can enter the race weekend with confidence but at the same time everyone else will be improving their set-up so we can’t relax. We found a good rider position which I’m really happy with, having moved my position more towards the rear in Sepang – to try and find more grip, here we can run a more neutral set-up and everything seems to be working well. We did some more work on electronics tonight and also on the tyres, but generally worked in preparation for the weekend.”
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) 2nd, 1m, 55.745s “The conditions seemed very difficult when we arrived at the circuit today as it was so windy and on the way here the road was full of sand, but we managed to finally complete a good test. It was very windy out on track and quite difficult to ride at maximum, but the grip was not so bad. It was cooler than yesterday and we improved our lap times, which is positive. Today we tried the new front fork, we have continued to work with electronics and have tried both the hard and the softer tyres. We kept the good feeling we had at Sepang, the test here in Qatar also went well in general and we go to the first race with a competitive bike, but for the Grand Prix we will have to keep working hard because nobody will give away anything.”
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) 4th, 1m, 56.433s “I am happy because I have improved by almost a second on yesterday and that shows that we are working well and things are looking good ahead of Sunday’s race. We went out feeling very motivated tonight and we found our way again after losing it a little last night. I have found some interesting things with the setting and now we are all feeling more confident. Whenever I was with other riders out there I was able to match them and that is a good sign that we have got the right pace at this circuit. The two fastest guys are obviously looking very strong but I am sure we can close the gap on Thursday in practice and be up there fighting with the best of them come Sunday.”
Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) 5th, 1m, 56.439s “It was a strange day of testing. At the beginning it was very windy and the track was dirty, but fortunately we managed to test. We worked on electronics and also on the set-up of the bike to improve the corner entry and at around 22.00 we did a race simulation. The temperatures today were cooler than yesterday with the ground reaching 18 degrees. We used the hard tyre for the whole session and maybe this strategy was a mistake. In the past it was not possible to use the soft compound on this track whereas it seems possible this year. Only myself and Lorenzo made a race simulation so it’s difficult to compare the lap times with the other riders. If we look at the lap times, the gap to Casey and Dani is too big. I think this is because we used different tyres and did different work, for the race weekend we should be closer. Of course we need to keep working but I feel that we arrive at the first round competitive.”
Hiroshi Aoyama (San Carlo Honda Gresini) 10th, 1m, 56.740s “Overall I am happy with this last test here in Qatar and with our chances on Sunday. We tried some different settings tonight and that was our main focus. I was missing a little off my lap time but to be honest that wasn’t what we were looking for. At the end of the session we dialed in the setting I liked the best and I tried to improve on my excellent lap time from yesterday but with the lower track temperature I wasn’t able to do so. I’m still confident though and we have yesterday’s lap time as a marker of what we are capable of. Overall, it leaves me sixth fastest and only a few tenths off third.”
Toni Elias (LCR Honda MotoGP) 17th, 1m, 58.536s “Today’s condition was not perfect because of the strong wind and sand on the surface, thus the grip was very poor. These conditions did not help us in our testing plan for today and our main issue remain the rear. I need to transfer more weight in the rear, but in the meantime we found some good solutions for our base chassis set-up. I crashed in the last part of the session and I could not lap on soft tyres to improve my lap time, but we have got more important things to adjust ahead of Sunday’s race.”
– Ducati Report
The final pre-season MotoGP test session was completed tonight in chilly, windy conditions at Qatar’s Losail International Circuit, where Ducati Marlboro Team riders Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi lowered their lap times from last night. The team will still be working hard to make up ground when practice for the first round of the world championship starts in two days, with the race scheduled for March 20.
Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro Team) 9th, 1:56.726 (68 laps)
“When we got here this afternoon, I wasn’t sure how much riding we were going to get to do, because the wind was really gusting. It started dying down about the time we started, though, and they did a good job of cleaning the track. We tried some different options and got a little bit better, but not like we really wanted to. I did two longer runs and was able to string together some laps at a decent pace, on both hard and soft tyres. I ended the day with a crash in Turn 2, where a lot of guys have gone down this week. I just lost the front end. Anyway, that’s enough testing, because this weekend it will really mean something. We know it’s going to be a tough one, because everyone is pushing so hard, but we’ll do our best to come in here and make a good showing.”
Valentino Rossi (Ducati Marlboro Team) 13th, 1:56.988 (50 laps)
“I’d say that today was pretty challenging: the weather conditions were much tougher than yesterday, and I had another crash when I slipped on a white line. Fortunately, I just fell over on the ground—it was nothing serious. The real problem was that at about an hour and a half from the finish, I started to lose strength in my shoulder, and I just couldn’t push anymore. It’s a shame, because I had just done my best time, and I may have been able to drop it a little more from there. Instead, we didn’t even mount the two soft tyres that we had. I started on a long run, but I stopped because I was losing tenths lap after lap. Let’s say that we’re not as far back as it looks, although we still have a lot of work to do, regarding both the bike and myself, because the shoulder is evidently not yet able to bear two such intense days of testing. Between now and Thursday, I’ll do some light exercise and have it massaged, and then we’ll see.”
– Yamaha Report
The biggest threat on the track this evening for Yamaha Factory Racing riders Jorge Lorenzo and Ben Spies was not other riders but fiercely strong winds blowing across the Losail circuit in Qatar. The final pre-season MotoGP test session before next weekend’s opening race was a battle against the elements.
American rider Spies built steadily up the time sheets, slotting in as second fastest rider just before the midway point of the session. He took his last opportunity before the race weekend to work through some further geometry settings with Crew Chief Tom Houseworth as they hunted down extra grip on the track, wrapping up at the end in third 0.613 seconds from the front. Spies’ team mate Lorenzo struggled to make a significant step forward from yesterday’s session, hampered by the winds the Mallorcan was unable to find the best set up for the conditions. He finished the session with an extended run to check on fuel consumption, ending the final test of the winter off-season in seventh position on the time sheets.
Ben Spies, Yamaha Factory Racing Rider, 3rd, 1’56.294 (45 laps)
“It’s been a good test, I’m happy with it. We tried a few different things today and improved the bike some more. We’ve now got a couple of days to look over the data ready for the four day weekend, there’ll be plenty more riding opportunities before Sunday. I was pretty confident coming here after Sepang, hopefully we can make the bike even better before the race. Last year we saw that the M1 worked well at every track, it’s Yamaha’s strong point and I think it’s the same this year.”
Jorge Lorenzo, Yamaha Factory Racing Rider, 7th, 1’56.707 (48 laps)
“Today wasn’t the best day for me. It was not because my riding is bad, I always admit when it is, we struggled with the set up of the bike during the session and unfortunately we didn’t make a step forward. The wind was tough but that was a problem for everyone. We also tried a different swing arm today but it didn’t make an improvement. We will work over the next few days to be ready to improve in the next sessions on Thursday.”
Wilco Zeelenberg, Yamaha Factory Racing Team Manager
“Today was a very windy day in Qatar, compared to yesterday we struggled a little bit with the feeling and the balance of the bike because of it. We made a long run at the end even though we hadn’t found a perfect feeling to see what our fuel consumption was and also gather some more electronic information. The bike set up wasn’t perfect for it but it was necessary to do.”
Massimo Meregalli, Yamaha Factory Racing Team Director
“We are satisfied with Ben’s bike set up, he was consistently quite fast. Ben didn’t push 100% which makes us confident for the race weekend. We didn’t try a really long run but managed to maintain a consistent fast pace with a used tyre. We didn’t make as big a step forward today on Jorge’s side as we would have liked however we completed a useful longer run to gather some valuable data. We’re confident that we have enough sessions before Sunday’s race for both riders to find an optimum and competitive set up.”
– Suzuki Report
Rizla Suzuki has completed a positive final day of testing at Qatar this evening to bring to an end this year’s pre-season test schedule.
Álvaro Bautista (P12, 1’56.931,) was one of the busiest riders on track this evening as he completed 63 laps of the 5,380m circuit. He worked his way through an exhaustive test programme to get as much information about the performance of the GSV-R around the Losail track in readiness for next weekend’s race. Bautista also tested new compound front and rear Bridgestone tyres, as well as giving a thorough test to the compounds that he will most probably use in the season opener.
Bautista’s best time today was almost four-tenths-of-a-second faster than last night and he continued to produce consistent laps all evening as he showed decent race pace. Unfortunately his evening came to an early end when he lost the front of his GSV-R at over 250km/h as he braked hard for the final corner. He walked away from the huge crash with some minor scratches and bruises and will be fully fit for the race. Today’s fastest time was set by Casey Stoner on his factory Honda.
Rizla Suzuki will be in race action for the first time this season next weekend, when the curtain-raising Grand Prix gets underway beneath the floodlights at Losail in Qatar on Sunday 20th March.
Álvaro Bautista: “It has been another big workload tonight and we got a lot done again. We tried a different setting to try and get more grip with the rear tyre, because although yesterday wasn’t too bad we still wanted to improve. I tested some new Bridgestone tyres tonight, but they didn’t quite give me the same confidence as the ones we already have, but we still needed to test them so I’m glad I did. At the end I hoped to make a long run with the harder tyres, but it was too late. So instead I put a soft tyre in the rear and a hard in the front to try to make a good lap, but I tried to warm the tyres on the out lap so I could push hard and when I arrived in the last corner I braked very hard and lost the front, so I finished my day before the end of the test! I am happy with the work from the two days because we have a very clear direction for next weekend. We are in a much stronger position than a year ago and I’m looking forward to the race.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager: “Up until the last 10 minutes of these 10 hours of testing, the two nights had been extremely productive for Álvaro and the Rizla Suzuki team. A 250km/h crash is never a good thing and the GSV-R that he was riding won’t see the light of day again, but he is almost completely unmarked – so we can put that one down to good fortune and move on to the race weekend with optimism. The bike’s performed consistently over the two nights, and whilst we haven’t pushed for a qualifying type lap-time, Álvaro’s rhythm over the long runs is quite competitive and we’ve got a good direction to start the Grand Prix weekend.”