Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Reigning MotoGP World Champion being chased by Spies and Crutchlow
Casey Stoner topped the timing sheets during today’s Free Practice in preparation for Sunday’s Grand Prix of Portugal at a rain affected Estoril circuit with Yamaha Factory Racing’s Ben Spies ending day one in second while satellite Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow in third position.
Stoner took his time finding his way this morning on a slippery track following some rainfall and with some sections of the track also being resurfaced. Nevertheless, Stoner leapt to the top of the timings during the second Free Practice session that was dry giving the Australian the perfect opportunity to continually improve his times and eventually posting a fastest time of 1m 38.396s.
We have a fairly good idea of what we need to do tomorrow.
Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) returning to the sharp end of the field today after two uncharacteristic two races at Qatar and last week at Jerez with the American setting a personal best time of 1m 38.717s for second place ahead of Cal Crutchlow who is continuing his blinding pace he has shown since Qatar with the British rider posting a best lap of 1m 38.742s.
Stoner was very happy with his pace today saying, “We did a few laps this morning to try and understand the bike, to make sure everything was working and like Jerez we wanted to see where the wet patches were on the track. Then this afternoon, unfortunately there were still areas of the track that hadn't dried out but we managed to get some good dry time, the bike seems to be working ok at this point and we have a fairly good idea of what we need to do tomorrow."
Spies found the form that was escaping him at the start of the season and revealed that a lot of changes were made to his YZR-M1. “It’s a good feeling today but it’s still early, it’s Friday,” said Spies who continued, “The most important thing is I have to thank my crew, they made a huge change to the bike, not only to the front but we also changed some rider position settings that I asked for and the bike seems good. Not only are the lap times fast, it’s much easier to ride at that speed than the slower times at Jerez. Right now the bike is quick and easy to ride, we need to make some more improvements to it. To be in the top three on the first day after two difficult weekends is a positive start.”
Despite being third fastest and happy with his performance Crutchlow wasn’t happy with the Estoril track. Crutchlow said, “I'm happy with the way we have started this weekend. This morning was similar to the first session in Jerez and we couldn't really learn anything with the track being so damp in parts. The problem was the patches were really big at the last corner and to be honest it was pretty dangerous, so we might have to look at that in the Safety Commission.
We never changed the tyres from this morning to the afternoon and that is a big plus. For that reason I'm really happy with the pace I was able to set, especially because we know that some other guys did put in a new tire at the end to go a bit quicker. We were just concentrating on working on the race set-up and we still have plenty of margin to improve. The first two races have given me a lot of confidence and I am looking forward to carrying on the good start this weekend,” Crutchlow added.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) finished his first day in 4th place with a best lap of 1m 38.797s while Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) was celebrating his 25th birthday today and didn’t take part in the morning session due to the damp track conditions but the birthday boy was fast enough for 5th place with a best lap of 1m 38.930s while Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) finished in 6th position on his best lap of 1m 38.959s.
Nicky Hayden continues to fly the flag for the Ducati Team in 7th place with a best lap of 1m 39.029s while the satellite Pramac Ducati of Hector Barbera was up next on a best lap of 1m 39.193s and one place ahead of Valentino Rossi who has publicly admitted he has to change his riding style even more to suit the Ducati GP12 and the seven times MotoGP Champion also moving in a more ‘Ducati-like’ setting on his machine. Rossi finished the day in 9th position with a best lap of 1m 39.357s.
The final place in the top ten went to Andrea Dovizioso (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) with a best time of 1m 39.615s ahead of Cardion AB Motoracing rider Karel Abraham in 11th (1m 40.207s). MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl finished his first day with a best time of 1m 40.898s for the LCR Honda Team. The Power Electronics Aspar CRT machine of Randy de Puniet was up next with a best time of 1m 41.088s ahead of his teammate Aleix Espargaro on a best lap of (1m 41.634s).
Yonny Hernandez and his Avintia Blusens FTR Kawasaki ended day one in 15th (1m 41.638s) and one place ahead of Mattia Pasini for the Speed Master team with a best lap of 1m 41.973s while the San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT machine of Michele Pirro (1m 42.252s). Colin Edwards finished his day with a best lap of 1m 42.587s for the NGM Forward Racing Team while Ivan Silva posted his best lap of 1m 42.804s for his Avintia Blusens team. Danillo Petrucci (Came IodaRacing) finished his first day with a best lap of 1m 42.984s while James Ellison (Paul Bird Motorsport) set a best time of 1m 43.665s.