Jorge Lorenzo opened MotoGP Round 9 by topping the timesheet in both Free Practice sessions at Mugello.
One of Jorge Lorenzo‘s three 2011 wins occurred at Mugello. Today the Yamaha Factory rider returned to the Italian circuit and true to his race-winning form, topped the timesheet in both Free Practice sessions. Round 9 marks the mid-point of the 18 round 2012 season as Lorenzo arrives with a 14-point lead in the Championship over Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. The factory Honda rider maintained the second-fastest time after both sessions wrapped followed by Ducati’s Nicky Hayden close behind in third. The battle was extremely close throughout the sessions, ending with the top ten riders posting times within one second of Lorenzo’s winning 1’48.076.
Lorenzo regained the overall lead after taking second at Sachsenring in the previous round. Pedrosa’s teammate, Casey Stoner, suffered a frustrating crash late in the German Grand Prix which dropped him from a battle for first to a DNF just two turns from the checkers. Stoner and Lorenzo went in to Sachsenring tied for the lead owing to the irresponsible move by San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista in Turn 1 at Assen which took Lorenzo out of Round 7 competition completely and allowed Stoner to close the points gap on his rival. As a result of Stoner’s misfortune in Germany, Lorenzo, who had held steady in third for much of the contest, moved to the runner-up position and took 20 points as he finished comfortably ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso.
Lorenzo stands to further extend his lead at a track he recently described as one of his favorites. “I love the track (Mugello); it’s very fast and should be a good one for our bike. I’m very happy to be leading the Championship but we still have many races to go so our target is to again aim for the podium and victory if it is possible.”
The Mallorcan arrived at the Italian circuit nearly dialed-in, solidifying his confidence of a positive result in Round 9, “I’m really happy because from the beginning we’ve been quite fast. We haven’t had to make many changes to the bike, the feeling is great with the track and it’s working well. I feel good with the suspension, throttle and braking. Everything seems quite clear, we have to work on some small details but we’ve made an excellent beginning.”
Dani Pedrosa, who just signed on for two more years with Repsol Honda, was just a fraction of a second behind Lorenzo in Friday’s practice at Mugello.
The Yamaha pilot will have to fend off a voracious pack of riders come Sunday, many who have found a mid-season stride which will affect the podium order in the rounds to come. Pedrosa is one of those riders with momentum on his side. The Repsol ace won his first GP of the 2012 season at Sachsenring and has been a regular fixture in the top three all season. Pedrosa only trailed Lorenzo in FP at Mugello by 0.031 seconds, despite having to sort out tire troubles early in the first session.
“We had some troubles with the tires in the morning, but in the afternoon we made a step forward that I’m happy with in order to keep improving tomorrow,” Pedrosa said after both practice sessions had closed.
In addition to his latest racing success, the Spaniard recently announced a two-year extension of his contract with Repsol Honda alongside soon-to-be teammate Marc Márquez, who will take Stoner’s position on the factory team in 2013. Márquez currently leads overall in Moto 2 by 43 points.
Stoner remains a clear threat to both Lorenzo and Pedrosa’s hopes of a title win, especially considering his poor result at Sachsenring was a fluke. Prior to the crash, the Australian rider had finished in the top four through 22 consecutive races. He finished sixth-fastest after FP 1 and 2 at Mugello and has some tire issues to iron out before Sunday.
“This afternoon we were trying to get the hard tire to work, but every time we went out it didn’t work so we came back in to try something different and then go back out but it was still the same,” Stoner said. “We can’t seem to get the same tire temperatures that the others are getting at the moment, we’re trying to find it through different set ups, but we haven’t found it just yet.” Despite these difficulties, Stoner only trailed Lorenzo’s top time by 0.451 seconds.
Though early in the round, Hayden showed improved performance on his Ducati GP12 with the third-fastest practice time. The American rider has yet to break the top five at the checkers this season, but is hopeful that adjustments made to the Ducati during and since Sachsenring will help propel him up the ranks. Hayden’s teammate, Valentino Rossi, is similarly optimistic about the round at Mugello, coming off his best dry condition finish of 2012 in sixth at the German GP.
Valentino Rossi hopes improvements to his bike will allow him to contend out front at Mugello, his home race.
“Last Sunday at the Sachsenring, we used a set up that enabled us to be more consistent and to stress the rear tire a bit less so that we still had a decent pace at the end of the race,” Rossi explained. “It was our best result of the year so far in the dry, so now we’ll start from that base in an effort to improve at Mugello. It’s the Italian Grand Prix, so everyone, including myself, must make an extra effort to do well in our home race.”
Hector Barbera, the lone premier class rider for Pramac Racing, posted the fourth-fastest time in FP at Mugello. While in the midst of a long run on Bridgestone’s new tire compound during FP2, Barbera went down in a crash that, luckily, wreaked more havoc on his bike than his body. “I didn’t have a great feeling while I was trying the new tire, but I decided to finish the long run to understand the new Bridgestone’s potential. Unfortunately, after a few laps, I crashed in the gravel at high speed but I escaped relatively unscathed. In the last minutes of the afternoon session I used a new soft tire and this allowed me to regain the confidence with my Ducati, storming into the top four.”
Dovizioso came in behind Barbera in fifth after his team made some modifications to improve front-end feeling for FP2, allowing the Italian to cut nearly one second off his FP1 lap time. Dovi comes to Mugello with two consecutive third-place finishes and is motivated to continue his podium streak at his home round. “I arrive in Mugello in front of my home supporters full of confidence after the podiums in Assen and Sachsenring and we have made a positive start. We made a big improvement to the set-up of the bike this afternoon. I have more feeling with the front-end and I was much faster than in the morning.”
Tech 3 teammate Cal Crutchlow, while coming in eighth on the FP timesheet, was only 0.574 off Lorenzo’s top lap time at the end of the sessions. The British rider focused more on fine-tuning his bike set-up than striving for the fastest time. “It was a decent day and my final position in eighth is probably not a true indication of my speed at the moment. I am sure I could be much faster but I didn’t really push for a fast time and concentrated a lot on working on the set up for the race. There are a couple of areas we can improve the bike but I am confident we can do that and I will be fighting for a good grid position tomorrow.”
Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies bested Crutchlow by 0.110, posting the seventh-fastest time through both FP sessions. Spies’ terrible luck during the early portion of the season seems to have abated, the American rider now with two consecutive fourth-place finishes to his credit. Spies is still chasing his first podium of 2012, but has a bike configuration which he’s confident will allow him to contend out front. “The first session was ok, then the second session we tried a couple of different bike settings and wasted a bit of the time finding something that didn’t work. We went back to the setting we know that works and had it going pretty well by the time the tires were pretty used. I’m happy we were doing the times we were with race distance on the tires and we know we can make the bike better for tomorrow.”
LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl rounded out the top ten in FP at Mugello and has to address some braking issues discovered during the session before Sunday’s race. Bautista was 11th and struggled to find his pace during both sessions, running off track in FP1 due to mechanical issues and crashing after losing the front end early on in FP2.
Power Electronics Aspar duo Aleix Espargaro and Randy de Puniet headed up the CRT field in 12th and 13th respectively. Michele Pirro of San Carlo Honda Gresini took 14th and Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini, the only rider not to improve his lap time in FP2, was 15th. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards placed near the bottom of the pack in 17th.
2012 MotoGP Mugello Friday Results:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’48.076
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’48.107
3. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’48.157
4. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’48.254
5. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1’48.308
6. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’48.527
7. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’48.540
8. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’48.650
9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’49.017
10. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1’49.022
11. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1’49.208
12. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 1’50.015
13. Randy de Puniet (ART) 1’50.269
14. Michele Pirro (FTR) 1’51.130
15. Mattia Pasini (ART) 1’51.253
16. Yonny Hernandez (BQR) 1’51.322
17. Colin Edwards (Suter) 1’51.857
18. James Ellison (ART) 1’51.966
19. Danilio Petrucci (Ioda) 1’52.109
20. Ivan Silva (BQR) 1’52.558