After a month-long break, MotoGP was finally back in action today at Estoril in Portugal for the 14th round of the season. Carrying a special one-off ‘Fiat Punto Evo livery for this race, the Fiat Yamaha pair of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi made a strong start to the weekend, finishing Free Practice in first and third respectively.
Temperatures were comfortably in the mid-twenties and both riders were happy to be back on board, using the time to reacquaint themselves with their YZR-M1s after the holidays and work on tyre selection and set-up. Dani Pedrosa was on top for much of the first half of the session but with 20 minutes to go Lorenzo moved into the lead and he finished the session well inside the lap record and an impressive 0.359 seconds ahead of Pedrosa. Rossi was less than a tenth off Pedrosa in third and is confident that a little more time to work on set-up tomorrow will enable him improve the balance of his bike in the hard braking areas and close the disadvantage to his young team-mate.
Position: 1st Time: 1’37.185 Laps: 27
“It’s good to be back on the bike after one month but also quite hard! I enjoyed today though and we did a good job and made an encouraging start. After a bit of work we were able to do a very good time and I am happy to be in front, it’s important at this stage of the championship to make a strong start this weekend. We have one or two things to improve but we are in good shape. I am happy to see Casey back and also to see that he is already strong. Finally I want to mention the special sticker I have on my bike this weekend for Lukas Sembera, a young Czech rider who had a bad accident two weeks ago – I wish him all the best in his recovery.”
Position: 3rd Time: 1’37.606 Laps: 26
“This is quite a difficult track to come back to after a long break because the braking is very hard and it’s quite stressful on the arms, but I think it will be better tomorrow. We have a slight problem in the balance of the bike in these hard braking areas which we need to work on tomorrow to find a way to improve; we’re already quite fast but we need to close the gap a bit more so we will make the most of our time tomorrow so that we’re in good shape for qualifying.”
“A very good start here at this track and again we are showing that we are consistently competitive, which proves that the base setting of our Yamaha works in all the tracks. It’s impressive how Jorge is already under the circuit record lap and this is great for the first day, especially after such a long break. We’re quite happy about our performance but now we’re looking forward to being a able to improve a few small areas even more tomorrow.”
“We made quite a good start today. It looks like we have as bit of work to do but we’re not too far away. We also had the possibility to check all the tyres and so it was a good session as far as gathering information is concerned. We could have done with a few more laps at the end to check a couple of different settings, but this isn’t a big problem and we will have time to do this tomorrow.”
Refreshed from the long summer sojourn, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team duo Colin Edwards and James Toseland made a fast return to action at the start of the Portuguese MotoGP weekend today.
In unusually hot and humid conditions at the Estoril circuit, a best lap of 1.38.103 saw Edwards set the fifth best time, the American spending the majority of the session evaluating the harder compound Bridgestone tyres with air temperatures peaking at 25 degrees.
Showing the form that has secured Edwards a new one-year contract with the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad for 2010, the 35-year-old wa s less than a second off Jorge Lorenzo’s fastest pace and just 0.137s away from Casey Stoner in fourth.
Determined to finish his MotoGP career in style, Toseland made an impressive start to round 14 of the 2009 world championship, the British rider lapping close to the top six throughout the session.
Improving the set-up of his YZR-M1 machine for the technical demanding Estoril circuit throughout the session, Toseland ended with the eighth fastest time. Toseland was just 0.4s away from the top six at the end with a best lap of 1.38.591, the 28-year-old focusing on improving front-end stability for the heavy braking points at Estoril ahead of Sunday’s 28-lap race.
Colin Edwards 5th 1.38.103 – 24 laps
“I felt pretty good today once I’d blown off a few cobwebs. It was great to have a long break but it was al so good to be back on the bike to try and finish the year off strong. My lap times are good enough for the first day and we made some good progress with the set-up of the bike. We tried a few things from the Misano set-up that I didn’t get chance to use in that race and right away the bike felt pretty good. I felt the softer compound Bridgestone was a little bit too soft, so I spent most of the session on the harder option and it felt fine. We put a bit more weight on the front and that helped my lap times although I still had a little bit of front-end movement that I need to sort out overnight. Right now the bike feels a bit rigid and while it’s not a big issue, if we can cure it I’m sure I can go faster. The track condition feels pretty good because we’re not used to this weather at this time of the year in Estoril. We were all expecting wind and rain and we ended up dripping with sweat.”
James Toseland 8th 1.38.591 ̵ 1; 27 laps
“It was a really good session even though it took a while to get back into the swing of things having spent almost a month off the bike since Misano. The team have worked in a really good direction for the entire session and it was a positive start. There is quite a big difference in the level of grip between the soft and the hard compound options from Bridgestone. We’ll need the harder tyre for the race but with the softer option being so crucial to get a good qualifying position, we need to preserve the softer one as much as we can for tomorrow afternoon. We had a little issue with the stability of the bike under hard braking. This circuit has a lot of high speed braking points but we seemed to have found a much better balance for that. Now it’s a question of making the package we finished the session on more consistent so we can get the maximum grip from the hard tyre.”