Casey Stoner set the pace as the 2011 MotoGP season gets underway at Qatar. The Repsol Honda rider turned the fastest lap of the opening free practice session at 1’55.752. Dani Pedrosa followed his new teammate on the FP1 timesheet, with Ducati satellite rider Hector Barbera joining the Honda duo on the provisional front row. Valentino Rossi rebounded from lackluster pre-season testing results to tally an encouraging fifth-fastest performance, while the defending champ, Jorge Lorenzo, was seventh-fastest.
Stoner has a history of strong performances at the Qatari circuit, with three consecutive GP victories between 2007 and 2009. His FP1 lap far outpaced his rivals, more than sixth tenths faster than Pedrosa. Mapfre Aspar’s Barbera is the biggest head-scratcher of the opening session with an anomalous top-three result.
Marco Simoncelli, aboard the HRC backed Gresini Honda, impressed with his fourth-fastest result. The charismatic Italian’s pal and fellow countryman, Valentino Rossi, snuck into the top five. The Doctor’s best result since switching to Ducati, Rossi sounds optimistic regarding the progress made during the 45-minute session.
Valentino Rossi rebounded with a solid fifth-fastest result in Free Practice 1, The Doctor’s most encouraging result since switching to Ducati.
“We’re all pretty satisfied with this first free practice because we worked well throughout the entire session, progressively improving with each outing. We modified the setup a little compared to the test, and we immediately found it to be better, to the point that within just a few laps, I improved on my time from Monday.” Rossi added, “We know that if we want to have a good race on Sunday, we have to cut another five tenths, and we’ll try to do that tomorrow. Anyway, although we still have to improve some more things on the bike, now I don’t have to push so hard and it is turning better.”
Ben Spies trailed Rossi on the timesheet, but the American led his teammate, Lorenzo. The factory Yamaha duo continue to hone setup on the M1, treating the opening session as a continuation of the two-day test earlier this week. Preparing for the Sunday showdown, Lorenzo seems confident he’ll move up in the order – the Mallorcan having enjoyed a front-row start at Qatar his entire MotoGP career.
Jorge Lorenzo being Jorge Lorenzo (top). Ben Spies spits a little fire in Free Practice 1 at Qatar (bottom).
“Today we used a set up from last year here, I feel much more used to it so I am a lot more happy,” said Lorenzo. “I think if we improve the setting some more tomorrow we can really step forward. With the new chassis I can make faster corner speed here so the 2011 chassis is working well. I think we will all be closer to the front on Sunday night.”
Repsol’s Andrea Dovizioso placed eighth on the FP1 sheet, followed by Pramac Racing’s Randy de Puniet. Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards rounded out the top 10, with fellow American Nicky Hayden relegated to 11th on the factory Ducati.
2011 MotoGP Qatar Free Practice 1 Results:
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’55.752
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’56.362
3. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’56.421
4. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1’56.441
5. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’56.479
6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’56.493
7. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’56.586
8. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1’56.592
9. Randy de Puniet (Ducati) 1’56.790
10. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1’56.879
11. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’56.910
12. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1’56.987
13. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1’57.366
14. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) Tech 3 1’57.429
15. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’57.821
16. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1’58.528
17. Toni Elias (Honda) 1’59.087
Gresini Racing’s Yuki Takahashi snagged the top position after Free Practice 2 in the Moto2 class. The Japanese rider just edged out Marc VDS Racing’s Scott Redding, who suffered a late-session lowside. Third on the timesheet was Stefan Bradl, the German pilot running the fastest laps in the opening FP1 session. Rounding out the top five were regular 2010 podium contenders Andrea Iannone (Speed Master) and Thomas Luthi (Interwetten), both riders equipped with Suter chassis.
2011 Moto2 Qatar Friday Practice Results:
1. Yuki Takahashi (Moriwaki) 2’01.695
2. Scott Redding (Suter) 2’01.748
3. Stefan Bradl (Kalex) 2’01.800
4. Andrea Iannone (Suter) 2’01.983
5. Thomas Luthi (Suter) 2’02.143
6. Marc Marquez (Suter) 2’02.348
7. Michele Pirro (Moriwaki) 2’02.498
8. Aleix Espargaro (Pons Kalex) 2’02.577
9. Julian Simon (Suter) 2’02.620
10. Claudio Corti (Suter) 2’02.673
11. Javier Fores (Suter) 2’02.923
12. Esteve Rabat (FTR) 2’02.951
13. Alex De Angleis (Motobi) 2’03.021
14. Mike Di Meglio (Tech 3) 2’03.105
15. Ricard Cardus (Moriwaki) 2’03.185