Rossi wasted no time in putting to rest questions on how his shoulder would weaken his performance in Sepang; taking the fastest time in practice.
Valentino Rossi got another pleasant surprise today when he topped the timesheets in opening practice for the Sepang MotoGP race. Unsure how his damaged right shoulder would react just five days after his brilliant last-gasp third place in Japan, the 31-year-old cut a relieved figure in Malaysia tonight after setting the fastest time. Rossi had been worried that the physical excursion of the Twin Ring Motegi weekend would leave him weakened for the grueling challenge of Sepang’s heat and humidity.
Temperatures today nudged nearly 40 degrees Centigrade (104 degrees) but the Fiat Yamaha rider was in impressive form as he goes in search of a ninth podium in 11 starts at Sepang. Ten minutes of the session remained when Rossi clocked his best lap of 2.02.724 to finish 0.109s clear of fellow Italian Andrea Dovizioso.
Rossi, who clinched the 2009 world title at Sepang, said: “It is very good to be in front because it was a difficult practice. It was very hot and the track was quite dirty, it was very difficult to control the bike and we slide quite a lot. But I feel quite good and the shoulder doesn’t give me a lot of problem. I am just worried about 20-laps in the race because after some laps I start to suffer with a lack of power. But we expect this.”
“We are confident that we will be able to make some more improvements tomorrow and be in good shape to try for the front row tomorrow afternoon.”
Rossi said the Sepang weekend was the perfect opportunity for him to gauge the fitness level with his right shoulder. Severe tendon damage Rossi suffered in a motocross training accident back in April has hindered him ever since.
“It was very important to come here because it is the only track where we try this bike with these tires with me at 100% in the winter. It is important to understand how much the problem of the shoulder is. But anyway, 100% I will make the surgery. Even if I can ride well I am not at the maximum. It is also a good track to try and make the best because I am always very fast in Sepang. I think of the last four races, here and Phillip Island we have to try and get the good results.”
Like most of the MotoGP field, Rossi complained of rear grip issues this afternoon with dirty track conditions not helping lower lap times.
The nine-times world champion said: “It is very bad and the track is in a bad condition, mainly because of the dirt. There is not much grip and the temperature doesn’t help because the surface is over 50 degrees and that makes it the worst condition to try and ride at the maximum. But usually this track it comes a lot better with some more laps and I think it is possible to go quite a lot faster. Now we are quite far from the lap times of the past but you can see on the data, every time you open the throttle, the acceleration was much faster in the test.”
Lack of grip appeared to be plaguing Stoner leading up to a small crash in Turn 4. Despite the issues, the Aussie was able to put down the fourth fastest time behind points leader Lorenzo.
Rossi was clearly relieved that his shoulder was not put under severe stress on the second longest track on the premier class calendar and said: “It was a good surprise and I was very relieved. The target for these two races is to improve my best result that is third-place. I make three podiums but always third. So I am happy if I arrive first or second.”
Casey Stoner said he was more worried about a lack of rear grip than a small crash that left him in fourth place at the end of first practice for this weekend’s Malaysian MotoGP race. Stoner had just elevated himself to the top of the timesheets at a baking hot Sepang when he lost the front-end of his factory Ducati GP10 at turn four. The Aussie, who has been in fantastic form recently to dominate the Motorland Aragon and Twin Ring Motegi races, ended with a best time of 2.03.160 that put him 0.262s behind Jorge Lorenzo in third.
The 2007 world champion, who is chasing a second successive victory at the long and technical Sepang track on Sunday, said track conditions had not been conducive to fast lap times. Stoner, who has now won 22 premier class victories, said: “The track is not in good condition. It is slippery and it is getting bumpy. Our biggest issue was the rear grip today and normally we have a bigger issue than most people. Normally we have a very stable bike under brakes but we struggled with grip today and we also struggled on the brakes a little. The best thing we can do is get the weight
over the rear and try and get the rear working and things should start to fall into place. But for sure the track is not in good condition and most people will be struggling or grip to some degree. Mainly we had the soft tires on at the beginning and the rear grip seemed to be a little better from the soft and then we went immediately to the hard tires. It looked like we were struggling but the temperature was getting up and nobody really went a lot faster than early on.”
Stoner said he had not yet made a decision on which rear tire to run with track temperatures this afternoon hitting 54 degrees Centidgrade (129 degrees), adding: “The softer tire here is not so soft and the hard tire is extremely hard and the problem was we looked at the left side of the hard tire after 13 laps and it looks like new. There is no wear or scrubbing on the left side, so we need to get the rear working a lot more.”
Stoner was able to walk away unscathed from the slow-speed spill and Turn 4 and he explained what had happened: “I went into the corner and the rear came right round on me and as I put my weight back to try and get it hooking up the front pushed away. So as I was falling off the inside of the bike it wanted to pick up again, so I had to pull down otherwise it was going to high-side me. It was little bit of a funny crash but it came mainly from the rear and the only thing we can understand is that maybe we had too much engine braking and it was trying to pull it around too far.”
Bautista shows what the GSV-R is capable of with the fifth fastest time on the heels of Casey Stoner.
Alvaro Bautista was the big surprise on the opening day of practice at a scorching hot Sepang today, the Spaniard riding his factory Suzuki GSV-R machine to the fifth quickest time. Bautista proved once again that Suzuki’s V4 is a competitive package in hot conditions as he took full advantage of the punishing temperature. Under sizzling track temperatures the former world 125GP champion logged a best time of 2.03.338 to finish just 0.614s adrift of Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi.
He was only 0.178s behind Casey Stoner in fourth and said: “I am happy today because we have made a good first practice, it was important that we were able to start with a good setting because we already had a good reference point from the winter tests. It was helpful to have that base setting, but today the conditions were much different from the test and I felt like I had less grip from the rear tire. I started with the harder rear, but it did seem difficult to get the feel I wanted. I tried both my bikes with different settings and I preferred the second one because it was easier to ride. I put a soft tire in at the end and did a few laps with that and set a good time. We are still a bit away from the lap-time at the winter test, so we have to improve on many things to get the bike where we want it.”
It doesn’t look like MotoGP veteran Loris Caprossi made the cut with Suzuki downsizing its squad to a single rider for 2011.
It emerged today in Malaysia that Bautista is likely to be Suzuki’s lone entrant in the 2011 MotoGP world championship. Suzuki edged closer to downsizing to a one-rider effort having informed several team members yesterday (Thursday) that they won’t be offered new contracts.
Sepang MotoGP: Suzuki to run one-bike in 2011 Suzuki looks certain to run one factory GSV-R machine in 2011 after several team members were told in Sepang yesterday (Thursday) that they were unlikely to be offered new contracts.
The majority of the crew told they were free to seek alternative employment were on Loris Capirossi’s side of the garage, with Alvaro Bautista under contract for the 2011 MotoGP world championship campaign. One was long-serving Suzuki crew chief Stuart Shenton, who has been with the Japanese factory since 1992. Some of Bautista’s crew though will also be released in a reshuffle of the squad.
We’re keeping a close eye on the Suzuki’s budget situation and we’re hoping there’s one department that won’t see any cuts…
Suzuki is going ahead with its plan to slash its involvement to one bike despite the threat of legal action from Dorna, who insists Suzuki honor a commitment to field two bikes until the end of the 2011 season.
The Japanese factory is also coming under severe pressure from fellow Motorcycle Sport Manufacturers Association members Honda, Yamaha and Ducati, who are leaning heavily on Suzuki to honor the agreement.
Dorna boss Carmel Ezpeleta held talks with Suzuki last week at the Japanese Grand Prix at the Twin Ring Motegi, the Spaniard revealing that he was first made aware of Suzuki’s intention to reduce its involvement back in June. Ezpeleta said Suzuki would only be allowed to downscale its involvement to one GSV-R machine next season on the provision it fields a two-rider factory effort in the inaugural 1000cc four-stroke MotoGP class in 2012. Suzuki sales have plummeted as a result of the global financial meltdown and its fortunes in MotoGP have nosedived since a brilliant first 800cc campaign in 2007.
Lorenzo was able to set the third fastest time at the start of the biggest weekend of his Grand Prix career. The Spaniard only needs to finish in
Edwards is on a roll with the sixth fastest time during practice after a top-5 finish last round in Japan.
the top ten in Sunday’s race to clinch his first premier class world championship and he set a best time of 2.02.898 to finish just 0.065s adrift of Dovizioso.
Colin Edwards’ revival continued after he claimed a place in the top six again. Fifth place at the Twin Ring Motegi last weekend was his best result of the season and he was sixth-quickest this afternoon’s punishing temperatures. The Texan set a best time of 2.03.393 with fellow American Ben Spies a further three places back on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine. Nicky Hayden had another tough afternoon, the factory Ducati rider languishing down in 15th place and over 1.2s off the pace.