Gordon Hatch MotoGP correspondent
Day one of final test sees Honda and Yamaha factories on top
Repsol Honda and Yamaha Factory Racing began today what is looking to be a season-long battle after reigning World Champion Casey Stoner and 2010 Jorge Lorenzo left the Circuito de Jerez in Spain in first and second places respectively on day one of the final MotoGP test of 2012 before the season opener in Qatar on 8th April.
Stoner in his usual dominating form ended the day with a lap time of 1m 39.146s nearing the end of the session on a cooling track and Lorenzo, who was sitting on top of the timing sheets for some time, was unable to match the Australian’s time but also managed to break under the 1m 40s mark by setting a best lap of 1m 39.419s.
On the last exit we did our fastest lap on a new soft rear tyre. It's been a good first day.
Pleased with his first day’s performance Stoner said, "Today has been quite good, we did race distance with a soft set tyres this morning and we were getting quicker and quicker as we progressed but I think also the circuit was getting better. Then we put the hard tyre on and did a tyre comparison and we had very similar feelings to what we had in Sepang. We tried a few things with the chassis as the bike was proving slow to turn in the corner but in general it is working well especially at the end of the tyre life. On the last exit we did our fastest lap on a new soft rear tyre. It's been a good first day."
Lorenzo was one of the first riders to take to the track this morning and completed 76 laps on board his YZR-M1and was happy with the overall result with his work. Lorenzo said, “Today was a very long day because we started at 10am and finished at 6pm. We did a lot of laps and it was very interesting to see how different the bike was compared to Sepang because it’s a different track. Here it is much slower and more corners, not so many straights. The 1000cc is not so easy compared to the 800cc here. At the end of the day we were able to be very fast and stay in the first three positions so we are satisfied.”
Fellow Repsol rider Dani Pedrosa was next on the board with his best time of 1m 39.579s ahead of second of the Yamaha Factory Racing machines in the hands of Ben Spies who recorded a best lap time of 1m 39.984s. Pedrosa had a difficult first day with some problems to work on. "It's been a pretty tough day, the mechanics had a lot of work to do in the garage and I've been stationary a long time, so it was not easy to get into the rhythm quickly. But I'm happy because we have a clear idea about the changes we need to do on the bike to improve tomorrow, especially on braking and the exits of the corners.
We also tested the new front Bridgestone tyre, but just for a few laps, so I will keep testing it tomorrow to know if it's better. Unfortunately, in the afternoon I had a problem on one bike and I couldn't use it anymore, so I spent quite a long time in the box between runs and thinking about the changes we want to do. We didn't have too much chattering today, but I think it's because of the circuit characteristics".
The top four riders were the only ones to break into the 1m 39s bracket today with fifth fastest man Cal Crutchlow setting his best time of 1m 40.130s on board his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1. Sitting in sixth on the first day is Nicky Hayden who will be very happy with his progress on the Factory Ducati GP12 with a best lap of 1m 40.512s and Hayden now back to full fitness following a shoulder injury at Christmas time. Hayden finished the day ahead of San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista on the RC213V with a best lap of 1m 40.545
Birthday boy Andrea Dovizioso was next in line on the timing sheets with the Italian settling for 8th position with a best lap of 1m 40.665s on the day he turned 26 years old. Dovizioso didn’t top the day but will settle for being ahead of Valentino Rossi on his factory Ducati with the seven-time MotoGP champion ending the first day in 9th place with a best lap of 1m 40.920s and the Italian later complaining of lack of front end feel, exactly the same complaint the he had in the last test at Sepang, Malaysia.
LCR Honda rider and current Moto2 Champion Stefan Bradl finished his first day in 10th spot with a best time of 1m 40.983s and was closely followed by the first of the Claiming Rule Team (CRT) bikes in the hands of Rand De Puniet on board his Power Electronics Aspar with a best lap of 1m 41.015s. De Puniet finished ahead of prototype satellite riders Hector Barbera (Pramac Racing Team) with a best lap of 1m 41.388s and Karel Abraham on his Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati GP Zero with a time of 1m 41.603s - (Ducati will upgrade these bikes to the factory GP12 later in the season).
The battle of the rest of the CRT teams came next and it was Aleix Espargaro and his Power Electronics Aspar team in 14th place with a best lap of 1m 42.293s with Ducati test rider Franco Battaini next home (1m 42.403s). MotoGP veteran Colin Edwards was next on the sheets with a best time of 1m 42.462s for his NGM Mobile Forward Racing team. Michele Pirro ended day one in 17th spot and a best lap of 1m 42.655s for the San Carlo Honda CRT project.
Danilo Petrucci and his Came IodaRacing Project team were next up on the timing sheets with a best time of 1m 42.750s to finish in 18th and ahead of Mattia Pasini for the Speed Master team with a best lap of 1m43.006s in 19th place. Yonny Hernandez finished his day in 20th for the Avintia Racing MotoGP team on a best lap of 1m 43.437s with James Ellison and the Paul Bird Motorsport team in 21st on a best lap of 1m 43.477s and the final place went to Ivan Silva in 22nd place for the Avintia Racing MotoGP team with a best lap of 1m 44.025s.
The test will continue tomorrow.