The final Grand Prix weekend of the season got underway at Valencia in Spain today in bright sunshine, with Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi finishing the first day of practice in second and fourth respectively. The Fiat Yamaha pairing have little left to achieve this weekend but both are determined to close the season on a high note, with Lorenzo especially looking to confirm second place in the championship.
It was the young Mallorcan Lorenzo who spent the most time at the top of the time sheets today as he quickly found a comfortable setting for his M1 around the twisty 4.005 km circuit, one of only three circuits on the calendar where he has never won. In the last five minutes he was edged into second by Casey Stoner, but he continued to improve his time right up to the flag, ending up 0.382 seconds off the Australian. Rossi made a similarly strong start, spending the session working through some different setting solutions and making a steady improvement throughout. The Italian, who won his ninth world championship last time out in Sepang, finished the day just behind Dani Pedrosa in fourth place.
Jorge Lorenzo – Position: 2ndTime: 1’33.195Laps: 32
“This is one of the few places I haven’t won in my career so I really want to try! Today was very good, I did many laps with a strong rhythm and with a consistent and fast pace. We are feeling strong and we hope we can continue to be competitive. Tonight we will look at the data from today and consider how we can make more improvements for tomorrow so that I can try to be on the front row once again.”
Valentino Rossi – Position: 4thTime: 1’33.499Laps: 30
“It’s really nice to be riding as the world champion without having to think about points and now I just want to finish the year with a good race. Today was not so bad, I’m not happy with fourth but we’re not far off and we worked well on the bike. We had some different settings to work on to try to improve our performance at this track and then at the end I was able to do some good laps all together. Tomorrow we have quite a lot of work to do, we need to try the harder Bridgestone tyre and try to make another step with the setting, but so far we have done a good job.”
Daniele Romagnoli – Team Manager
“This was a very good start for us, as we’ve made at most races this season. We used the same Bridgestone tyre for the whole session and we had a good pace today, but we need to keep improving because we know that the eventual race pace will be faster than today’s. We’ve already got a lot of data and some additional rider requests, so we will work on those tomorrow.”
Davide Brivio – Team Manager
“In preparation for this session we had planned some different setting solutions to work through and so we spent the hour checking them carefully. Now we will compare the data we’ve gathered and use this going forward to tomorrow. Valentino already has a good pace and felt comfortable on the bike today so we are confident of being in good shape for the weekend.”
The final round of the 2009 MotoGP world championship kicked off in cloudy and windy conditions at Valencia this afternoon, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team duo Colin Edwards and James Toseland posting the seventh and 13th best times respectively.
Still firmly in contention for fifth place in the overall points standings going into Sunday’s final race, Edwards worked on two different settings in cool temperatures this afternoon and found his second YZR-M1 machine a stronger package at the Ricardo Tormo circuit.
Experimenting with a different geometry setting, Edwards was able to post a best time 1.34.123 as changes gave him improved front-end handling performance from his YZR-M1 ma chine.
British rider James Toseland is confident of big improvements as he started his final appearance for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad with the 13th quickest time.
Quickly reacquainting himself with the YZR-M1 800cc machine after a successful debut on Yamaha’s R1 World Superbike machine in Portimao recently, Toseland overcame a front tyre vibration issue and strong winds to clock a best time of 1.34.865.
Colin Edwards – Position: 7thTime: 1’34.123 Laps: 27
“It felt like hard work out there today. This is a physical track and maybe it’s just because I’m getting older but the times didn’t come easy at the start. But at the end I felt pretty good. We started with two bikes and the first one I went out on I thought it was really good. The second bike was set-up based on comments I gave my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 and Yamaha in Malaysia and it had different geometry settings. And it really helped the bike turn a lot better. One thing I’ve been missing a lot this year is the bike turning well. Once I get it leaned over and into the corner, my feeling was the bike was always running straight on for a while. But now when I get into the corner I continue turning instead of going wide. Fifth place in the world championship is still up for grabs on Sunday and while it is a tall order, I’ll be giving it my all for Monster Yamaha Tech 3. Those four guys at the front are in a different league and I need (Andrea) Dovizioso to have a bad weekend, but I won’t be holding back.”
James Toseland – Position: 13thTime: 1’34.865Laps: 27
“I needed some time to adapt myself back to the bike having done over 200 laps on the R1 in Portimao last week. I felt quite strong in the early part of the session. But when I wanted to start picking up the pace and going for some decent lap times I had a problem with the front tyre. There was a bit of a vibration issue and with the changes I lost time. The wind made it quite tricky as well today. In some faster sections of the track it was blowing me slightly off line. We gained some good information though and with ideas that we have to improve for tomorrow I’m convinced I can make progress up the timesheets. It is my last race for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team and I’m determined to finish with a strong result.”
Wildcard Sterilgarda Yamaha rider Ben Spies got stuck into the first free practice session of the weekend at the Valencia MotoGP today. Despite being Spies’ first outing on the Yamaha YZR-M1, the American made good progress, improving by nearly five seconds over the course of the session and finishing just over a second off the top five in 15th position. Spies made few changes to his M1, preferring to get as much track time in as possible as he begins to understand the different handling and power characteristics compared to his championship winning Yamaha YZF-R1 Superbike.
Tomorrow morning will see Spies looking to bring the set up of his bike further in line with his style of riding ahead of his first GP qualifying session on a Yamaha.
Ben Spies, Sterilgarda Yamaha Team – Position: 15thTime: 1’35.052
“It was actually a really good first session. Position wise it wasn’t what we are used to but I haven’t ridden a GP bike for a year and it’s the first time I’ve set foot on a Yamaha so to be realistically only a second off being in the mix is pretty good. For the first day, and only 20 laps on the bike I’m happy. I’m starting to understand some of the characteristics of the M1. I’m going to keep baby steps and keep chipping away.”
Massimo Meregalli – Sterilgarda Yamaha Team Manager
“For the first day here in this world with no experience on this bike or with these tires Ben did as usual a good job, but we didn’t expect anything else. For sure just one practice is not enough time to say too much but we cannot say that we are not satisfied. Ben didn’t want to use more than one set of tyres, he just wanted to spend some time on his bike and get used to the differences from his superbike. Tomorrow he will make another step, I’m very optimistic as I was all season with him.”