Under partly cloudy skies, Valentino Rossi and Fiat Yamaha appear to be back in sync, posting the top free practice lap during Round 15 of MotoGP at the Phillip Island circuit in Australia on Friday. Casey Stoner piloted his Ducati to the second time slot and Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa posted the third-quickest lap.
Valentino Rossi returned to form during Friday's free practice, setting the fastest lap. The Doctor will hope to extend his points lead in the championship race.
Five-time winner Rossi put himself back on the top of the timesheets with his 1:31.032 lap. His Yamaha teammate and title contender, Jorge Lorenzo, was more than a second off the pace and lapped sixth-fastest. Grip issues and illness plagued Lorenzo and sent him off-track, ending his session, but the Mallorcan rider can hardly afford to lose his focus now if he wants to keep his title hopes alive.
"I just couldn't go fast today. I wasn't feeling too good - I think that I ate something last night which didn't agree with me and I felt very weak, which made it very hard to ride the bike. We had some spin and not enough grip or confidence and there were two times where I nearly crashed before I actually did. Luckily I didn't hurt myself at all and now I will just try to get a good night's sleep and then hopefully I will be much better tomorrow," Lorenzo said.
Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner has some devoted fans surrounding his hometown circuit at Phillip Island.
Hometown hero Stoner clocked his fastest lap in the last portion of his session for second, but was not pleased with the results. Said the Aussie rider, "I’m not that happy with today’s session to be honest. The track conditions weren’t good at all and we struggled for traction, which is usually a strong point of our bike. We tried a few different settings, one of which gave us better rear grip but compensated in turning, which was otherwise really good. The front end was quite consistent throughout so it’s just a case of working on the rear tomorrow and hoping that the track conditions improve so that we can find where the limits are. The weather is always a worry here and there was a point in the session this afternoon where it began to spot with rain just as I was heading into Turn One and I came back in.”
Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa finished the practice session in third. The young Spaniard, who will be looking to build on his third place finishes in Estoril and Misano, remarked, "I'm really looking forward to racing in Australia again. It feels like one of the most important races of the season for me and I'm very motivated to do my best there, get a good result and hopefully challenge for the win. I've had mixed experiences at Phillip Island but there have been some very good memories and those are the ones I’ll be focusing on going into this weekend. The objective for the remainder of the season is to keep third place in the championship and score at least one more victory, so if that can come in Australia, all the better.”
Alex de Angelis of San Carlo Honda Gresini posted the fourth-quickest time with Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards finishing close behind in fifth.
Edward’s teammate, James Toseland, captured seventh, with Andrea Dovizioso bringing his Repsol Honda into the eighth slot. Pramac Racing and fellow Ducati rider, Mika Kallio, finished ninth and veteran Loris Capirossi rounded out the top-ten on his Rizla Suzuki.
American Nicky Hayden rode his Ducati around the Australian circuit 11th-fastest. LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet came in at 12th with the other San Carlo Honda Gresini pilot, Toni Elias, bringing home 13th. Marco Melandri and the Hayate Racing Team finished in 14th, while Australian Chris Vermeulen had a disappointing homecoming and struggled to get the GSV-R dialed-in. He completed the practice session back in 15th place.
MotoGP Phillip Island Friday practice:
In 2008, Nicky Hayden finished third at Phillip Island aboard a Honda.
1. Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha) 1:31.032
2. Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro) 1:31.167
3. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) 1:31.528
4. Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) 1:31.786
5. Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) 1:31.846
6. Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) 1:32.077
7. James Toseland (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) 1:32.255
8. Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) 1:32.502
9. Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing) 1:32.572
10. Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) 1:32.572
11. Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro) 1:32.771
12. Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) 1:32.808
13. Toni Elias (San Carlo Honda Gresini) 1:33.304
14. Marco Melandri (Hayate Racing Team) 1:33.422
15. Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) 1:33.504
Valentino Rossi - Fiat Yamaha:
"Today we made a great start. We were concentrated and strong and I am really happy to start in front here at Phillip Island, which is somewhere that I love to ride. We were able to get a lot done in the practice session and try many different things and I was able to ride just how I wanted to. We can definitely improve more - even though we already have a good pace we will continue to work tomorrow and try to find a little bit more, but for the first day I think we can be very happy about our work."
Andrea Dovizioso - Repsol Honda:
"There are always a lot of fans at Phillip Island whatever the weather and they are really passionate about MotoGP. At the end of the race they all come under the podium and this makes for a very special atmosphere, so I hope I’m up there to enjoy the reception," said Andrea Dovizioso about racing at Phillip Island.
“Phillip Island is one of the best places to race because of the track layout and laid-back atmosphere. It’s a beautiful place - very green -and the circuit is right by the sea which creates an unusual feeling. Unfortunately, we race here at a time of the year where it’s usually cold and windy, but still it’s an event I always look forward to. The race track is really spectacular and it’s always a big challenge to race here. The fast corners and elevation changes make it a circuit that’s technical and demanding to ride, and it’s one of the tracks where the bike slides a lot, so achieving good machine control is essential. There are always a lot of fans at Phillip Island whatever the weather and they are really passionate about MotoGP. I usually have decent results here and so I’m confident of having a good race. I’m certainly looking forward to getting back to this special track and pushing as hard as possible.”
Alex De Angelis - San Carlo Gresini Honda:
“Alongside Sachsenring, Philip Island is my favourite track on the calendar, without a doubt. It is fast and flowing, which suits my riding style, and it gives me an opportunity to really get the full potential out of my bike in the fast corners. After scoring zero points in the last two rounds we go there with the will and determination to do a good job and our potential is high so I’m confident. I’m thinking positive also because I’ve come really close to victory on many occasions here in both the 125 and 250 classes and I feel that after the good form we showed in the middle of the season we are overdue another good result.”
Toni Elias - San Carlo Gresini Honda:
“Phillip Island is a wonderful track and I love it there, it’s a great track to ride when you’ve got traction. Unfortunately, that has been our main problem at a lot of the circuits we’ve been to this season and I’m concerned we’ll be struggling this weekend, because if you don’t have grip you can’t do the lap times. I’m expecting a difficult weekend, but we’ll give it our best shot and see what happens when we get there.”