Valentino Rossi made a blistering start to his home race in Mugello today despite suffering more pain from a badly damaged right shoulder. The Italian was in ominous form to dominate the opening practice session in his quest for a tenth victory on home soil on Sunday.
Rossi expressed his mistake of understimating his shoulder injury in previous rounds. However, he remarked his shoulder is slowly getting better and that his pain is minimal.
Rossi clocked a best time of 1.49.751 and only Jorge Lorenzo and compatriot Loris Capirossi were able to lap inside a second of the reigning world champion.
Rossi was a massive 0.369 seconds clear of Fiat Yamaha
teammate and world championship leader Lorenzo while Capirossi was a further 0.239 seconds back in third place.
The 31-year-old was delighted to have made such a fast start to his home race but he expressed concern that he would suffer in the 23-lap race. Rossi admitted he underestimated the damage caused to his right shoulder after a motocross
training accident in Italy in April.
“My shoulder gives me some pain and the condition is just a little bit better than Le Mans,” Rossi reported. “It is better on the change of direction and to stay behind the fairing is easy on the straight. In Le Mans and Jerez this was a big problem so this has improved. But I have pain under hard braking but this track helps compared to Le Mans because it is more flowing and less hard braking. We made a mistake because we underestimated the problem. I needed to wait some weeks after the crash to have everything clear. So I am upset but I don't think that if I would have known earlier that it would have made it better.”
Rossi was also happy to have solved some of the rear set-up issues that left him unable to push closer to Lorenzo for the victory in Le Mans and Jerez.
“We made a big improvement with the setting to gain some rear grip and better agility. I tried four different settings during practice and with the last one I am happy and I was fast. This was the biggest improvement. I'm constant but the big question mark is with the tires. We can use the soft or hard, both front and rear.”
Rossi also explained his new Mohican haircut which he sported for the first time today, saying: “It is a haircut for a battle."
Casey Stoner had a tough first day at the Italian circuit when he crashed in the opening MotoGP practice session at Mugello.
Meanwhile a brake problem instead of a mystery front-end issue caused Casey Stoner’s early crash in the opening MotoGP practice session in Mugello this afternoon. After having crashed out of the Qatar and Le Mans races and severely denting his MotoGP title aspirations for 2010, Stoner was down in the gravel again after just seven minutes of the session.
The 24-year-old lost control on the bumps in the hard braking zone for the final corner and ran off track.
Unable to scrub off enough speed, Stoner ploughed through the gravel for a few meters before losing control.
At the time he was experimenting with a set of 2009 Ohlins front forks that he’s using in Mugello in an attempt to solve his front-end issues that have seriously undermined his early title challenge.
“I came out of the fast Esses and just had a little bit of a shake,” said Stoner. “As I went into the last corner I realized my brakes were gone. After that we came in and just wanted to make sure the bike was all good. I went out on the bike I’ve been using at the last few races and didn’t have a good feeling. I didn’t want to put too much time on that bike, so we went out on the other bike again with the old forks and unfortunately there must have been a stone or something in it. It kept locking up the front-end so every time I went to tip into a corner there was just no steering. There was something wrong with it from when I dropped it in the gravel and we just never got in any laps. It was just one of those days.”
Stoner remarked that he wasn't able to put in enough time on the circuit to judge whether the switch to his old suspension setup was positive.
Elaborating further on his brake issue and crash, Stoner remarked: “It happens quite a lot. With the Brembo brakes from this year they are new compared to last year. We’ve had the same problem since Sepang in testing. When we come out of a headshake we’ve got nothing left. All the pads open up and when we go to brake there is just nothing there. It’s mainly the faster tracks where you get on a rough curb or come out and have a bit of a moment. The pads will separate and there is nothing there. If the brakes were fine I’d have made the corner no problem. There was no way I was going to stop, so I pulled it as hard into my fingers as I could but we had nothing to stop. I thought I could run it around the edge but as soon as I got into the gravel I realized I was going too quick. I tried to bank it over but just lost it.”
Stoner mentioned he didn’t have enough time to gauge whether the switch back to the 2009 Ohlins was positive and said: “I just had a more aggressive feel but we’ll try it in both bikes tomorrow and try to get a really good set-up for it.”
American Nicky Hayden struggled to overcome Mugello’s notoriously bumpy surface today as he ended the opening MotoGP practice in a lowly ninth-place. Hayden has enjoyed a brilliant start to the 2010 campaign with fourth-places in each of the opening three races.
Nicky Hayden also had a difficult time in Italy where his best lap was only good enough for ninth.
His hopes of a positive start at Mugello, however, were dashed with the 2006 world champion ending with a best time 1.51.387, almost 1.636 seconds adrift of Valentino Rossi.
“It wasn’t that good and I was certainly hoping to be a little bit smoother out of the gate but we had a lot of problems over the bumps. This track is quite bumpy and the bike was not soaking up the bumps, especially in the front. I had to change my lines a bit to miss the bumps but here you have to be on point and I wasn’t.”
Hayden denied though that his problems were so severe as to see him contemplate reverting back to last year’s Ohlins front forks like his teammate Stoner has opted to do for this weekend.
The former Repsol Honda
rider added: “I’m not that desperate yet. I haven’t heard Casey’s comments so I don’t know if he had any chance to back-to-back them but I’m going to work with some springs and clickers before I start changing forks.”
The front-end issue prevented Hayden from evaluating a new rear link Ducati
delivered in time for today’s practice.
“I stayed on one bike so I didn’t try the link. The problems I was having we didn’t think the link was going to help. I’m anxious to try it and they’ve worked hard to get it here. They don’t help front chatter but it’s more for rear grip and change of direction.”
One boost for Hayden on an otherwise disappointing day was his impressive top speed. He’s always struggled to get close to the top of the speed charts and at times has been as far back as 10ks on teammate Stoner. But Hayden’s GP10 was second this afternoon with a top speed of 209.21mph.
Although Hayden struggled with his lap times at Mugello, his top speed has improved and was second only to Ducati's Hector Barbera.
Only Hector Barbera’s Ducati was faster and Hayden confirmed he’s switched back to a smaller fairing used prior to last year’s Estoril GP in Portugal.
“I am using the 2009 fairing that we used before Estoril and it is better for top speed,” commented Hayden. “I’m quite happy about it because I’ve worked hard on the aerodynamic side of it.”
Ducati later revealed that Hayden spent 20 hours in a wind tunnel in Italy during December in an effort to increase his top speed.
Ben Spies made a brilliant return to form this afternoon when he ended opening practice in Mugello with the sixth best time. The American’s first full season in MotoGP
had stalled somewhat heading into the Mugello clash after he’d failed to finish in both Jerez and Le Mans recently. However, the reigning World Superbike
champion was in dazzling form in the Tuscany mountains today with a best lap of 1.51.004 which secured him in the top- six.
The spectacular Mugello circuit is one of the most technically challenging and physically demanding on the MotoGP calendar. However, Spies has exhibited a talent for learning tracks at a remarkably fast rate, and clocked just over 0.2 seconds behind Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammate Colin Edwards at Mugello.
Ben Spies once again proved his skill at being able to learn circuits quickly when he took the sixth-best time of the day.
Although still struggling with ligament damage in his left ankle, Spies remarked: “This track is definitely a more difficult place to learn but it is a super fun track. It can take a while to get into a rhythm, but coming here on the back of a few bad results and being immediately fast on such a technically challenging track is really good for me. It doesn’t feel like I should have been sixth and I guess that is a good sign. I’m still having a bit of trouble with the ankle I hurt in the practice crash in Le Mans. There’s quite a bit of ligament damage but the only time I really feel it is when I’m trying to tuck in tight on the straight.”
Edwards also made a welcome return to form after he logged the fourth best time. The double World Superbike Champion posted a best lap of 1.50.772, and only a late attack by Italian veteran Loris Capirossi prevented Yamaha from claiming a 1-2-3 at the end of the first free practice session.
Edwards has struggled to replicate his impressive form of 2009 which ended with him claiming a brilliant top-five overall finish in the championship. Major set-up changes with his YZR-M1 paid off immediately, however.
“I’m really happy with today because the first three races have not been easy at all," said Edwards. "Nothing had worked so far this season so basically I completely changed the set-up of the bike today. I just told my team to change the set-up so it was completely the same as Mugello last year when I had the best result at this track. We changed riding position and got my weight moved forward because I’ve been having a problem keeping weight on the front this season. Now it just feels so natural and the bike does exactly what I want it to do.”