Jorge Lorenzo (99) leads Casey Stoner (1) by 25 points as MotoGP heads to the Assen TT in The Netherlands.
Ben Spies kept his name at the top of the Assen results sheet as MotoGP kicks off Round 7 action. The American led an Anglo/American top three in the second practice session, with Spies edging Tech 3 Yamaha’s Cal Crutchlow for the top position and fellow American Nicky Hayden third-fastest on his factory Ducati. MotoGP title front-runners Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner placed a respective fifth and seventh on the Thursday timesheet.
Spies enjoyed his best-ever performance in MotoGP at the 2011 Assen TT, claiming his sole GP win to date. The Texan’s continued his good fortunes on the Dutch circuit in the opening practice sessions. Spies would finished the day by setting his class-leading lap on a soft-compound Bridgestone.
“Today was a good day, both this morning and this afternoon,” said Spies in a team press release. “In the second session we did almost race distance on the tires in case it rains tomorrow to be ready for Saturday. We had quick times and then tried the soft tire at the end of the session and were able to put down some quick laps with over race distance on the front tire. The bike feels good so we’re going to continue on this path and try to make the bike even better for tomorrow and Saturday.”
Crutchlow was pushed out of the top position by less than a hundredth of a second, the Tech 3 satellite rider in vigorous competition with Spies for the second factory Yamaha seat next season. Hayden trails his compatriot by a mere tenth. All three set their best laps on the soft tire, as did the fourth-fastest rider on the day – Gresini Honda’s Alvaro Bautista.
Lorenzo is not concerned with his fifth-fastest result, the championship points leader fastest on the harder compound tire. The 2010 MotoGP champion focused his Thursday effort on setting up Saturday’s race, where he will look to extend his winning streak to four. Said Lorenzo on his practice sessions: “The feeling is pretty good with the bike, we started in a good way this morning and were fastest. In the afternoon we were fastest for most of the session but finally the riders who switched to soft tires went in front of me. We concentrated on improving the pace with a race tire and I think we succeeded. We have a good package and I’m confident with the bike which is important.”
Stoner also stayed off the soft tire, but the reigning champ struggled. While third-fastest in the morning session, the Repsol ace was relegated to an uncharacteristic 10th in FP2 – earning seventh on the combined times, the only rider to not improve in the afternoon. Stoner was plagued once again by chatter on his RC213V.
“In FP2 we couldn’t get any feeling from the rear and to be honest I felt a little nervous on the bike because from the first two exits, the bike just wanted to throw me off, every time I touched the throttle the rear wanted to come around on me and I lost the front quite a few times, too many for my liking,” said Stoner in a Repsol team statement. “Everything we’re doing, trying to reduce the chatter is just making the bike difficult to ride. We’re going to have to rethink things again and come out fresh tomorrow. I’m not too worried about finding the pace, it was just a little bit disappointing this afternoon.”
Stoner’s teammate, Dani Pedrosa, ran both tire compounds on Thursday with his 1’35.080 only 0.214 off the lead pace. Former Repsol-turned Tech 3 Yamaha rider Andrea Dovizioso claimed eighth on the timing. The Italian, also in the running for that Factory Yamaha seat, beat compatriot Valentino Rossi. As for The Doctor, he managed to take ninth and best his satellite Ducati competitor, Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera, by a miniscule 0.002.
MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl got his first taste of The Cathedral in the premier class, lapping 11th fastest on the LCR Honda. As for the CRT ranks, Aleix Espargaro nipped Power Electronics Aspar teammate Randy de Puniet for fastest of the also-rans. Meanwhile Karel Abraham struggled after returning from injury to take 17th on the timesheet aboard the Cardion AB Ducati satellite.
2012 MotoGP Assen Thursday Results:
1. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’34.866
2. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’34.872
3. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’34.968
4. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1’35.008
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’35.057
6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’35.080
7. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’35.181
8. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1’35.257
9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’35.296
10. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’35.298
11. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1’35.337
12. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 1’36.615
13. Randy de Puniet (ART) 1’36.871
14. Michele Pirro (FTR) 1’37.057
15. Yonny Hernandez (BQR) 1’37.572
16. Karel Abraham (Ducati) 1’37.628
17. Mattia Pasini (ART) 1’37.657
18. Colin Edwards (Suter) 1’37.669
19. James Ellison (ART) 1’37.973
20. Ivan Silva (BQR) 1’38.279
21. Danilo Petrucci (Ioda) 1’38.373