Stoner set the tone in the first official Practice at Qatar, leading virtually the entire session and bettering his rival.
One practice session into the 2009 season and Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi are already at each other’s throats. The first 45-minute practice session (15 minutes shorter for 2009), make every practice lap that much more crucial to dialing in the ride and the two GP champions made the most of it.
Rossi got things started with a hot lap in the opening turns of the circuit, but Stoner answered immediately and led the remainder of the session. Although the Ducati ace had a minor run-off during the session, it was without any drama. The 2007 champion proved consistently fast throughout, an important feat considering the questions over his lingering wrist injury.
In fact, during the closing laps of the session, Stoner only improved, pushing his best time down by three tenths and then promptly dropping it another 4 tenths the very next turn of the Losail track. His eventual best lap of 157.053 was almost a full second ahead of the field before Rossi tried to meet the challenge.
Although Rossi fell short, the Fiat Yamaha rider did roll out a series of impressive laps and second-fastest overall. The Doctor was followed by former teammate Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards and current teammate Jorge Lorenzo. San Carlo Gresini Honda’s Alex de Angelis rounded out the top five times.
Loris Capirossi was the fastest Suzuki rider in sixth, his teammate Chris Vermeulen back in 14th. Pramac Ducati rookie Mika Kallio was the second-fastest Desmosedici rider, with Nicky Hayden a disappointing 13th. Andrea Dovizioso was the second-fastest of the Honda riders in either, his teammate Dani Pedrosa well off the pace in 18th – clearly struggling with injury.
Other notable results include the respectable ninth-fastest time of Kawasaki’s Marco Melandri. Not much is expected of Supermarco on the near defunct ZX-RR project, so a single-digit pace is remarkable. As for the un-retired Sete Gibernau, the Spaniard hasn’t quite hasn’t shaken off the rust of his two-year hiatus – finishing 16th.
MotoGP Qatar Free Practice 1 Results:
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1’57.053
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1’57.439
3. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1’57.835
4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’58.272
5. Alex de Angelis (Honda) 1’58.452
6. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1’58.468
7. Mika Kallio (Ducati) 1’58.499
8. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1’58.506
9. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) 1’58.757
10. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 1’58.771
11. James Toseland (Yamaha) 1’58.850
12. Toni Elias (Honda) 1’59.094
13. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’59.158
14. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 1’59.348
15. Yuki Takahashi (Honda) 1’59.437
16. Sete Gibernau (Ducati) 2’00.595
17. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) 2’00.597
18. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2’01.435
Casey Stoner – (Ducati Marlboro Team) 1st (1’57.053)
“We’ve made a good start today and I’m happy because the bike feeling was really good straight away. The settings we brought from Jerez seem to be working well here too. We still need to change a couple of things to get more grip from the rear. A lot of that is due to the track conditions being really dusty but we just need to take our time and try to get it set up better for tomorrow. Hopefully the track will clean up too.”
Valentino Rossi - (Fiat Yamaha Team) 2nd (1’57.439)
“This evening I am quite happy because at the test we were one second from Casey but now the gap is much less. We had some ideas after the test to improve our pace and I am happy to say that they all seemed to have worked. I am fast, I have a good pace and I am happy with this opening session. We can still improve; the track was quite dirty tonight so I think that tomorrow we will be able to push a bit harder. It’s much warmer than at the test and this is helping us too, I am more confident and I can ride my M1 how I want to. It’s strange only having 45 minutes in a session and you have to be quite well organised and plan more in advance, but on the whole it doesn’t seem so bad to me. This weekend I have a special sticker on my bike, which says ‘Forza Abruzzo.’ It’s a message from us for the people of Abruzzo, where the earthquake was last weekend. It’s not so far from my home in Tavullia and I want them to know that we are with them at such a terrible time.”
Jorge Lorenzo - (Fiat Yamaha Team) 4th (1’58.272)
“We had a few problems, mainly in the hard braking areas where I didn’t have such a great feeling with the front tire, but apart from that it’s been ok. The track was quite dirty so it was difficult to go at 100%, and I think tomorrow it will be much better. At the end today we made a big improvement and my last lap was much better, so I am not worried and I think tomorrow, with more time on track, we can improve. 45 minutes doesn’t feel enough to me but I do understand the reason for this change; if it helps the championship then it’s important and we just need to get used to this new way of working. The track should be much less dirty as well tomorrow so I hope we can start from where we finished tonight and keep going.”
Loris Capirossi - (Rizla Suzuki Team) 6th (1’58.468)
“For the first practice it was not too bad, but we did struggle a bit with the setting. In the recent test it was not perfect so we tried a new one and this didn’t work as well so we will use some stuff from that and go back to the old one. We have a good idea what we need to modify tomorrow and I am sure we will be stronger. 45 minutes seems a really short time and it is difficult to get a lot of work done, also with the limited amount of tires – especially on such a dirty track – made it quite tough Overall we are quite pleased and we will have quite an easy way to improve tomorrow!”
Mika Kallio - (Pramac Racing Team) 7th (1’58.499)
“Today everything went quite well. I made it to be really constant and this gives me a lot of trust for Sunday’s race. It will surely be important to work well tomorrow for then see how the race will go. I am really happy of this start. The Team has worked really well. It has been really strange to work so intensively on two bikes due to the 15 minutes cut, but we will have to get used to it.”