As he has done in all the tests thus far in 2010, The Doctor once again led the way with over three-tenths in hand. Any thoughts of retirement from the Italian have been squashed by his performances this pre-season.
The MotoGP boys hit the sands of the Middle East for what will be their final pre-season test before the official 2010 season gets underway April 11. The two-day affair started with the man who’s been on top in the previous two tests, Valentino Rossi, topping the timesheets once again, showing that the 31-year-old has no plans of slowing down. His best time of 1:55.402 put the Fiat Yamaha rider just over three-tenths ahead of Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner at 1:55.717.
“I am so happy today because this isn’t one of our best tracks and to come here and be fastest shows what a great job Yamaha has done with this new M1,” said Rossi in a team press release. “To start with the track was quite slippery but anyway we were still fast, and as the track started to improve I felt better and better. We are quite competitive and this gives me a good feeling and I was happy to make this quick lap right at the end.”
But the big news of Day 1 may have been third-place rider Ben Spies. Despite a small crash, the rookie American clocked a blistering 1:55.954 on his satellite Tech 3 Yamaha, the final rider to get in the 1:55s, nipping at the heels of two of MotoGP’s top veterans. The Texan was able to break into the once believed to be untouchable “four aliens” group in what was his first ride at the Qatari circuit on a MotoGP bike. He raced at Losail last year for the first time on a Yamaha World Superbike, picking up both race wins. Based on pre-season testing so far, that group of “four aliens” could quickly become “five aliens” if he can translate his testing speed into race-pace. Amazing stuff from the Grand Prix newbie.
“I know this track from last year but riding under the floodlights is definitely a bit different and nothing I’ve experienced before,” Spies said. “The perception of speed is much faster with it being at night but I’m having a lot of fun. It’s really well lit up but there are a couple of darker spots on the track that you have to get used to, but I’ve not done too bad in adjusting to the lights.”
Spies was followed by fellow Texan and Tech 3 Yamaha teammate Colin Edwards in fourth. But the American finished the day over a second back of Rossi with a best lap of 1:56.540, which was also half-a-second off Spies’ time. Closely behind Edwards was LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet. His best lap of 1:56.588 put the Frenchman in the top-five for the first time in ’10 pre-season testing and is by far the best performance from the satellite Honda rider in quite some time.
Andrea Dovizioso was the first of the factory Repsol Honda riders in sixth at 1:56.811. Dovizioso is fresh off a nasty illness, which caused him to miss the team’s official press launch this week in Spain and is no doubt still feeling the effects.
Speaking of overcoming setbacks, seventh-quickest was Jorge Lorenzo. The Spanish star is riding with a still-healing broken right hand, requiring a special carbon fiber brace and one-off custom gloves. Lorenzo stated in a pre-test release that he would merely “try to ride.” But he did much more than that, posting a respectable 1:56.838.
The final American, Nicky Hayden, was eighth on his factory Ducati, clicking off a 1:56.855. Pramac Racing Ducati’s Mika Kallio showed some speed to post the ninth-best time of the day at 1:56.923; the last rider under the 1:56 mark.
Rounding out the top-10 was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa, in a less-than-impressive performance from one of the so-called “aliens.” Honda is expecting a championship out of the diminutive Spaniard this year and it looks as if he may have quite the hill to climb. Tomorrow is Day 2 and should reveal even more as it’s the final time riders will see the track before the first race. Stay tuned…
P.S. Be sure to sign up for MotoUSA’s Fantasy Racing now as the season starts soon!
Qatar MotoGP Test Day 1 Results
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:55.402
2. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:55.717
3. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:55.954
4. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:56.540
5. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 1:56.588
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:56.811
7. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:56.838
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:56.855
9. Mika Kallio (Ducati) 1:56.923
10. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:57.047
11. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:57.099
12. Marco Melandri (Honda) 1:57.605
13. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:57.822
14. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1:57.888
15. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:57.891
16. Aleix Espargaro (Ducati) 1:57.898
17. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:57.960
Pramac Ducati unveiled new livery this weekend, going green for 2010. Rider Mike Kallio (left) put down a respectable ninth-place time for the team’s first outing in the new colors.
Mika Kallio (9th): “We can feel satisfied with the work done today. Our lap times are very similar to those recorded last year and this gives us great confidence, as tomorrow we will have other hours to improve. For my opinion on this track I can ride my Ducati very well. I feel that we can improve and tomorrow we will do everything to find the best technical compromise.”
Aleix Espargaro (16th): “In the first day of each test I always have some difficulties but I think is normal as this is my first year in MotoGP. Maybe I go on track too aggressive and I need to relax a bit. However in the final stage of this day I found a good set-up on my Ducati that allowed me to improve. Not enough, that’s clear: tomorrow we will have to take a major step forward.”
Both Rizla Suzuki riders struggled on Day 1, with Capirossi (shown) the best of the two in 11th spot.
Loris Capirossi (11th): “I think that the bike is a bit better compared to last year’s, but I didn’t make many laps today because I don’t feel so good. This will now make tomorrow very important because we have some big things to try and some other bits to fix. I am really optimistic and think that the new bike is a step in the right direction and we have an opportunity to make an improved performance in the championship.”
Alvaro Bautista (17th): The first day here has not had the same feel for me as I had on the last day in Sepang, this is because it is a new track for me on a MotoGP bike with new reference points and I don’t feel 100% yet. The problem I have is in the exit of corners, I can keep a good line and go out through them, but it is difficult to get it right every time and enjoy it. We’ve tried different solutions, but I don’t have a good feeling. We decided to stop a bit early because it has been a long day and my body is not feeling the changes we are making to the bike. Tomorrow we have another day and I hope to be 100% and to enjoy riding the bike and to go much better.”
Jorge Lorenzo (7th): “It’s really good to be back on my bike and actually when I went out on track the first time today my hand felt better than I had expected. The pain has decreased a lot in the last few days and I’ve been doing a lot of physio to make sure I’m in the best possible shape for this test. I was able to do quite a lot of laps today and my time is not so bad in the end, it’s definitely interesting and important to be here and see our level after missing the last test. Dainese have made me a bigger glove and I have some protection on the hand; changing direction is okay, it’s just the hard braking areas where I have some problems. I need more practice but I think we have made a good start.”
“It’s really good to be back on my bike and actually when I went out on track the first time today my hand felt better than I had expected.” – Lorenzo
Ben Spies (3rd): “I know the track but any track I go to on a MotoGP bike definitely makes it different because of the lines you take. Some of the lines I’d take on the Superbike just don’t work but I felt like it was coming together good and following a couple of people it felt like I was doing more of the right things than I was in Malaysia. Obviously it is great for me to be high up the timesheets but I’m still taking baby steps to improve and not getting carried away. The crash was nothing too serious. I was running the hard front and I wasn’t getting a good feeling from it. We changed the pressure to try and help for my second run but I just lost the front at the second corner. But to be third is fantastic for my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3. They have been giving me great support.”
Colin Edwards (4th): “It was a good night. It didn’t start off too great and it took me a while to get into the groove. We played around with the set-up using some of the new parts I’d liked in Sepang and also running some of last year’s pieces to get some good information. The lap time was about the same so around this track the new parts aren’t making the difference like they did in Malaysia. I did a long run on the hard front and I like it. I did race distance on it and it felt really good. I ended up doing 27 laps on it, which is five more than race distance, and it still felt really good. I’m getting the feedback I need at full lean angle and it holds the turn much better.”