The Grand Prix of Catalunya got underway today with the first day of free practice and has proved to be, as expected, a demanding test for the riders, bikes and tyres from the beginning.
Already very hot in the morning session (26°C), the temperature reached 29ºC in the afternoon and 51ºC on the asphalt, hard conditions which the Repsol Honda riders responded to well.
Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa finished sixth and eighth respectively in the Combined Free Practice Times after dedicating the day mainly to working with the tyres on a critical and special track known for its heavy braking, the long time the bike is on the edge of the tyre and the high temperatures.
Both riders tried the soft rear compound in the morning, but opted to keep the hard one in the afternoon, when other riders began to use the soft tyre at the end of the session. Casey did his best time in the morning (1'42.775), lapping only four tenths slower in the FP2 (1'43.134), while Dani set almost the same time in both practice sessions (1'42.875 and 1'42.870).
"It's been nice to have some good weather and consistent conditions. It's very hot on track and I think everyone is struggling a little on the soft compound tyre. This afternoon we used the harder tyre and they seemed to be a little more consistent. We're still not very happy with how the bike is feeling and we can certainly improve on that but we're fairly happy as far as pace is concerned. Everyone seemed to treat this afternoon's session like it was qualifying, using the softer tyre but in the end this is their choice! There are lots of things to try before qualifying tomorrow, we need to continue working on reducing the chatter and a few other things, but in general we're pretty happy.”
"Our main target today has been to properly test the tyres because it will be very important to make the right choice for the race. Here in the past, the soft tyre worked quite well with high temperatures, but we still don't know how long it will last. I did the whole morning practice with the softer compound and I kept the hard in the afternoon and I felt good with both. My lap times were almost identical in both conditions, and the riders in front put the softer at the end, so I'm not worried with my position today. It's also true that they have improved the times by a second, so we will need to understand better if the softer will last the race distance. 25 laps are a lot, you spend a lot of time on the edge of the tyre and it's import ant to keep them 'fresh' until the end. We will keep working on some details tomorrow morning in order to be ready for the qualifying.”