Dani Pedrosa has done well at Sachsenring in the past and has three MotoGP wins to his credit at the German circuit.
Fickle weather produced two drastically different Free Practice sessions at Sachsenring on Friday as the MotoGP grid readies for Round 8 of the 2012 World Championship. Riders enjoyed dry conditions for FP1 and all posted their top times of the day during the session, whereas FP2 started after a downpour drenched the track, slowing lap times by over 10 seconds in most cases. Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa barely edged out teammate Casey Stoner at the top of the timesheet in FP1, with Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo close behind Stoner in third. Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow trailed in fourth and fifth places respectively while Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera posted the sixth-fastest time.
Stoner led the charge in FP1 for the majority of the session, losing the top spot to Pedrosa in the final minutes. Lorenzo, still tending an injured right ankle that forces him to move about the paddock on crutches, remains a consummate threat on his YZR-M1 despite the injury. The Mallorcan was just 0.290 off the lead.
“I have more pain walking than on the bike which is good and adrenaline helps with it too,” said Lorenzo. “I’m not 100% and I get more tired in the upper body compensating but I think we still did a good job this morning and this afternoon.”
Pedrosa is one of the most accomplished riders in the current field at the German circuit, having won five times there during his career, three in MotoGP. Ducati’s Valentino Rossi similarly has five career wins at Sachsenring, with four in the premier class. DP remains in the hunt for his first win of the 2012 season though and will no doubt be a fierce competitor for the top in Round 8. The Honda rider also posted the top time in wet conditions after the weather took a turn for the worse before FP2.
“The weekend has started pretty good for us; I felt comfortable in both the dry and wet conditions, but we only managed half of our plan today,” said Pedrosa. “We wanted to test the hard rear tires in the afternoon, because in theory the hardest compound should be working better in this track where you are leaning to the left a long time, and with the soft the bike slides a lot. Anyway, it’s also been good to try the bike in the wet for one practice session because it looks like the weather will again be very unstable.”
“This track is very short and you spend a lot of time carrying a lot of lean angle, so it is easy to wear the tire too quickly,” said Dovizioso. “I have been working on carrying a little less lean angle to help save the tires for the end of the race.”
A constant between both rounds that should make for an exciting race come Sunday is that in both practice sessions the top ten riders all clocked in within one second of the fastest lap time. Following Barbera in FP1 was Ducati’s Nicky Hayden in seventh and San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista in eighth. LCR Honda’s Stefan Bradl was ninth-fastest and Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies rounded out the top ten with Rossi trailing in 11th. Bradl and Rossi had dramatically improved placements during the wet session with the German rider posting the second-fastest time and Rossi holding to fifth. Much will depend on how conditions look come race day, especially considering that Rossi’s only podium finish of the season so far has come in wet conditions during Round 4 at LeMans.
One rider who is ready for whatever weather might come is Dovizioso. “I am really satisfied with today because I am not so far away in both dry and wet conditions and the lap times are very close in both sessions.” Dovi currently has two podium finishes to his credit in 2012, a third at Catalunya and a third at Assen, and has been riding consistently.
Fellow Tech 3 rider Crutchlow has yet to earn a podium but has had some spectacular rounds, most notably his ride from last place on a broken ankle to finishing sixth at his home round at Silverstone. Sachsenring was one of the British rider’s worst rounds in 2011 but he is optimistic that his results during practice are a sign of a more successful outing this year, regardless of the weather. “It was a decent start to the weekend and I am not too far away from the best pace in both dry and wet conditions. But I need to make some improvements in the first sector because that is where I am losing a lot of time. It is mainly in the first two corners where I’m struggling and we don’t fully understand why, so tonight I’ll sit down with my crew and analyze the data so we can work on being faster in that part of the track tomorrow.”
Barbera’s pace could lead him to the best finish of his GP career at Sachsenring, having taken 11th in 2011 and 9th in 2010. The Spanish rider slipped a bit in the wet conditions, but remained within one second of Pedrosa’s top time. Hayden hasn’t earned a podium in the German Grand Prix since 2007 and is still chasing his first top-three finish of 2012. Penalized rider Bautista will start from the back of the pack regardless of his practice and qualifying performance due to an irresponsible maneuver during the previous round at Assen, but his times on Friday indicate that he may make short work of the CRT field and be battling with the factory riders soon after Sunday’s event is underway.
Power Electronics Aspar’s Randy de Puniet was the fastest CRT rider of the day, taking 12th behind Rossi. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards trailed the French rider in 13th. Edwards and his team discovered some serious electronics issues at Assen that affected power delivery, but have since addressed the complications and hope for improved results at Sachsenring. “They fixed that problem and I started to understand, even before I got on the bike, some of the problems that I was having in the last few races. It was a mistake, we fixed it and I knew that when we would get back on the bike it would be better and I would have more throttle control. It felt good this morning.”
Colin Edwards hopes that his performance will improve after addressing electronics issues that impacted power delievery.
2012 MotoGP Sachsenring Friday Results:
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’22.357
2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’22.444
3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’22.647
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1’22.922
5. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’23.081
6. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’23.091
7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’23.092
8. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1’23.203
9. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1’23.306
10. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’23.353
11. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’23.481
12. Randy de Puniet (ART) 1’24.210
13. Colin Edwards (Suter) 1’24.560
14. Michele Pirro (FTR) 1’24.659
15. Yonny Hernandez (BQR) 1’24.786
16. Aleix Espargaro (ART) 1’24.855
17. Ivan Silva (BQR) 1’25.512
18. Franco Battaini (Ducati) 1’25.646
19. Mattia Pasini (ART) 1’25.839
20. Danilio Petrucci (Ioda) 1’25.958
21. James Ellison (ART) 1’26.183