Casey Stoner starts off the spec-tire era of MotoGP as the fastest man in the first test session for teh 2009 season.
The 2009 MotoGP season got underway today at the Ricardo Tormo Circuit in Valencia. Site of the final race of the 2008 season just this past weekend, all the stars were on hand and making preparations for 2009 and the new spec-tire rule.
This is the first time former Michelin riders had an opportunity to test the Bridgestone tires they will be racing on next season. It was also the first time a handful of riders got to turn a wheel in anger aboard their new machines. The most notable change thus far being the switch from Honda to Ducati by 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden. Former Red Bull KTM 250 GP contender Mika Kallio was representing the Alice Ducati squad for the first time after spending the last few years on the KTM smokers. The man who Hayden replaced, Marco Melandri, got his first taste of the Monster Kawasaki ZX-RR.
Hayden’s teammate and 2007 World Champion, Casey Stoner had the new Desmosedici on pace and lapping as the quickest rider of the afternoon followed by Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa and new champ, Valentino Rossi.
Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) “Today we began work on 2009 and I was able to try the new bike for the first time. It is only the first prototype but my impression of it is very good and it seems they have done a good job. We are working on the engine in order to have more acceleration on the exit from the corner and there is a small change, not enough yet but in the right direction so this is important. We worked on the setting and the weight distribution and I was faster with the new bike so this is good! We need more time to understand the bike and more laps but this is only the first day and it is very positive. The other ‘big’ thing today of course is the new tyres and I am really happily surprised. This is not the best track to try them at as we don’t have so much data for here but anyway they feel very good. I was expecting less gri p but we had a lot and everyone was fast today. The track conditions are a lot better today than they have been during the weekend so this makes a difference, but anyway we can already see that they are quite good. I think Bridgestone have done a good job but of course it will be hard to know for sure until we have been to some different tracks. We have to wait and see. For me they feel good even in comparison with my Bridgestone tyres from all of the season so I am happy so far. I have a special ‘world champion’ helmet now which I like a lot and which I will use throughout the winter testing. As for the number one. I will keep my 46 of course but I will put the number one on my back as I did in the past.”
Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) “I am really happy today because now everyone has the same tyres. I tried a test bike with some new parts and today we were just working on collecting information and understanding the new things. I think it was a good day and I made some good laps, so I am quite happy. I had a crash in the afternoon which was my mistake, it was at turn twelve and I opened the throttle too much when the tyre was cold, but I was not hurt and we were able to continue. Tomorrow we will try again with the new tyres and keep working and collecting information. Of course we need more time to be able to understand them and evaluate them properly, this is just the first day but we will go step-by-step. There is a long time before the new season but I am excited that we have started work already.”
John Hopkins (Kawasaki) “The front tyre we were allocated this morning feels identical to the one that Valentino and Casey have been using all year, but we’ve not been able to run on our bike before. Today we’ve had the chance to make some changes to the overall set-up of the bike, and it looks like we’ve made some real progress. I’ve now got a much better feeling from the front than I’ve had for some time, and that’s given me back the confidence to push harder in the corners. We’ve also run back-to-back tests using both bikes on two different engine specifications, and that’s allowed us to make a direct comparison and identify a clear direction for development. It’s also been interesting to start work with my new crew chief, Naoya Kaneko, as he has a very structured approach to the rider debrief and I think this will make a difference when we’re pushed for time during race weekends. Overall, it’s been a pretty productive day and I’m really happy with the improvements we’ve made to the bike; it’s completely different now and I felt more comfortable on it today than I have all season. If we get more dry weather tomorrow then I hope we can continue to make improvements to the bike.”
Valencia Test Lap Times
1. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro 1’32.464
2. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda 1’32.672
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’32.921
4. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki 1’33.142
5. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki 1’33.325
6. Alex De Angelis (RSM) Team San Carlo 1’33.375
7. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’33.550
8. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda 1’33.676
9. John Hopkins (USA) Kawasaki Racing 1’33.760
10. Marco Melandri (ITA) Kawasaki Racing Team 1’33.782
11. Randy De Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP 1’33.832
12. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’33.960
13. Toni Elias (SPA) Team San Carlo 1’34.129
14. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Grupo Francisco Hernando 1’34.451
15. Mika Kallio (FIN) Alice Team 1’34.793
16. Olivier Jacque (FRA) Kawasaki Racing 1’34.925
17. Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Ducati Test 1’34.995
18. Yuki Takahashi (JPN) JiR Team Scot Honda 1’35.203