The 2011 MotoGP Championship invaded U.S. territory on Friday with two 45-minute practice sessions at the Indy circuit. Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner posted his best time of 1’40.724 on the final lap of FP2, improving significantly from his earlier morning session. The Aussie was running outside the top-three in the final 10 minutes, but with approximately five minutes remaining he moved to the top of the charts. Just a few minutes later he lowered his time once again, cementing the early advantage this weekend as the series enters the final U.S. round of the championship.
“This afternoon the track was slightly better and of course the lap times improved with more bikes on track and cleaning it up, but I’m still not comfortable on this surface,” remarked Stoner. “It’s incredibly slippery and the track is certainly my least favorite of the whole season.”
After dominating the first practice American Ben Spies finished second in the timesheets 0.194 seconds behind the Aussie. Spies traded the lead in the charts multiple times with Yamaha teammate, Jorge Lorenzo during the first half of practice.
“I feel a lot better now, almost okay but when I’m off the bike I’m more in pain which is frustrating,” said Spies. “It was a good start today, the first session I was waiting to see if the track was going to stay the same but in the end in the afternoon it improved a lot. We were able to be in the top three in both sessions which is great. The track is going to get even better for tomorrow so we’re looking forward to making another step forward and seeing what we can do.”
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa rounded out the top-three times 0.287 seconds behind Spies, the Spaniard beating his previous session time by nearly four seconds. Meanwhile, Lorenzo grabbed fourth in the order after struggling with grip levels on Indy’s freshly repaved surface.
American Ben Spies is looking strong at his home circuit and earned the second-fastest lap during practice.
“I started today struggling with the new asphalt,” Lorenzo said. “The morning was not good, but FP2 was much better and my feeling was really good. I’ve got grip on the rear now but I still have some problems with the front. I think we can still improve a lot in some parts.”
Italian Andrea Dovizioso momentarily held the lead halfway through before being overtaken by Spies and Stoner. Dovi nabbed fifth just 0.075 seconds ahead of American Colin Edwards, who finished the day just less than a second off the pace of Stoner. San Carlo Honda’s Marco Simoncelli was running in the top-three during the first quarter of FP2, but failed to improve on his time of 1’41.742.
“It hasn’t been a particularly happy first day here,” said Simoncelli. “The new track surface at Indianapolis has given us some grip issues – there wasn’t any this morning and maybe a little too much this afternoon.”
Ducati’s Nicky Hayden earned eighth in the charts, the American crossing the line only 0.047 seconds behind Super Sic. Rizla Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista was another 0.442 seconds behind, followed by Frenchman Randy de Puniet who rounded out the top-10.
The day finished on a poor note for Ducati’s Valentino Rossi, who was 11th in the timesheets with a time of 1’42.405. His current lap time leaves him more than 1.6 seconds off the pace of the leader and in need of improvement before Saturday’s qualifying.
“We didn’t expect the grip to improve so much this afternoon and we had to chase a setup the whole session, as I really couldn’t feel the bike,” commented Rossi. “Tomorrow we’ll completely change the balance.”
Indianapolis MotoGP Practice Results 2011:
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’40.724
2. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’40.918
3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’41.205
4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’41.461
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1’41.536
6. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1’41.699
7. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1’41.742
8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’41.789
9. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1’42.231
10. Randy de Puniet (Ducati) 1’42.339
11. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’42.405
12. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1’42.673
13. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’42.920
14. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1’43.034
15. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’43.085
16. Toni Elias (Honda) 1’43.230
17. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’43.528