Nancy Knapp Schilke
Pedrosa leads the brigade charge at Automotodrom Brno for Friday practice
Dani Pedrosa set his best lap time in the morning practice session for this weekend MotoGP Czech Grand Prix event. His Repsol Honda teammate Casey Stoner tried to take the top spot overall in the afternoon practice but came up short by 0.377 seconds. Marco Simoncelli laid down the third best time for the San Carlo Honda Gresini team.
"The feeling was very good today from the beginning,” said Pedrosa. “The bike was working well from the first round and we could move ahead, improving little by little in both practice sessions. I think the main difference I felt is that I'm fresh after the summer break, the rest I had has helped me a lot, I can feel the energy I didn't have in the races before the break, so I hope I can keep the pace for Saturday and Sunday and be strong for the race.”
I'm very happy with the job we did in both sessions...
The Spaniard was the only rider to go under the existing track record with a 1:56.328. The record Pedrosa beat was set by Jorge Lorenzo in 2009 on the Automotodrom Brno circuit at 1:56.670. Stoner was slightly over the record with a best lap of 1:56.831.
"I'm very happy with the job we did in both sessions and I think we can still improve and be ready for both the qualifying practice and the race. I guess the other rivals will also do the same, so we have to keep focused. Today I rode alone all the time, maybe tomorrow I can compare a little with other riders to see where are they stronger or weaker than me,” added the Spaniard.
As the MotoGP riders took to the Czech Republic circuit after their summer break, they had an extra front tire choice but Pedrosa was on the extra hard front and soft rear tires when he set his best lap time. Due to the warm weather, the new softer compound Bridgestone front tire was not tested today with most riders sticking to the hard and extra hard slicks on the front. It is doubtful that the new tire regulation could come into play this weekend due to the circuit itself and the weather which shows dry and warm conditions all weekend. Even the light rain between the two practice sessions did not cool down the circuit and by the afternoon practice the track was dry.
Bridgestone Motorsport Tire Development Department’s General Manager Tohru Ubukata commented, “We are now bringing the third spec of front tire specifically for cold weather to improve safety and warm-up performance following rider comments, but today the conditions were as warm as we expected, and very similar to last year, so our original allocation of hard and extra hard was suitable and riders didn’t need to use the softer third spec. I can say so far that the new allocation procedure is working well and rider feedback of the changes is positive.”
The speed of Simoncelli is never a surprise as ‘Super Sic’ is usually in the top three of the time charts and nailing down his best time of 1:57.136, he was a mere three-tenths off the pace of Stoner. “I’m happy with the two sessions today because we have come back from the holidays immediately on the pace. Pedrosa's speed is impressive, but right now the priority for me is to improve my confidence with the bike and not think about him,” said the Italian.
“I’m happy with the two sessions today because we have come back from the holidays immediately on the pace. Pedrosa's speed is impressive, but right now the priority for me is to improve my confidence with the bike and not think about him. We are working on my position on the bike and the general set-up and I’m sure we can have a great weekend. We need to improve on corner entry to give me more confidence on the brakes and try to create a bike that allows me to hold my line through the corner. Overall, I’m feeling confident and with this small adjustment we can only improve.”
Honda swept the top three fast laps but Jorge Lorenzo did place his Yamaha fourth best ahead of Repsol’s third rider Andrea Dovizioso, who was a tad quicker than Ben Spies (Fiat Yamaha). From today’s double practices, it appears that the run for the pole will again be a battle between Honda and Yamaha. The two main Yamaha factory riders will no doubt hope to snag the pole on Saturday for their team.
Lorenzo was not pleased with the day and stated: “Today’s sessions have not been exactly as we expected. We are struggling a bit on braking and we lose too much time over the lap. Tomorrow we will work hard to improve the bike in the morning to be ready for qualifying because at this moment we are pretty far from the front.”
On the other hand, Spies was more positive as he commented, “It was an ok day for us, I’m actually pretty happy with the results. I’ve got a little bit of a pinched nerve in my neck and I’m struggling a little bit on the bike but I’m still giving it 100%. Lap times aren’t too bad I’m just not able to put too many laps together in a row. We’re going to do a lot of physio over the next couple of days to get it where it’s comfortable for the race and I’m pretty optimistic about how we can turn things around for Sunday.”
The surprise could yet be a Ducati as Valentino Rossi was seventh fastest on the day. His time of 1:57.745 however was nearly 1.5 seconds off the pace set by Pedrosa. Rossi’s pole winning record time was set in 2009 at 1:56.145 which could be broken tomorrow as Pedrosa was just two-tenths off the record today.
Rossi was positive about today’s results as he said, “Today we started better than we had at recent races. Although I’m seventh, our time isn’t bad, and Spies and Dovizioso are ahead but close. This is positive, but the really important thing will be whether we can continue improving like this tomorrow as well, cutting more tenths from my time, session by session.”
Teammate Nicky Hayden however had a second session that saw the American drop backwards. Unlike his Italian cohort, he was slower in practice 2 due to the team stating that he had a “lack of rear grip in corners” and his best placed him 14th overall. “It was a frustrating day, really. You have two weeks off, and you work hard and do all the little things that will help you when you come back. Then to have your first day back be probably your worst day of the year is pretty frustrating,” he said.
The best performance of the Tech 3 Yamaha team riders was Cal Crutchlow in ninth while Colin Edwards’ best was 12th. “Today was a positive day and we made a good improvement with the bike and I feel like the front-end feeling I've been missing in the last few races is definitely better. We tried a new handlebar position, bringing them closer to me and it was a positive step,” Crutchlow said.