Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Reigning World Champion shows no signs of slowing despite announcing retirement
Just 24 hours after shocking the world of sport Casey Stoner was back on top of the proceedings at the first two Free Practice sessions for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France at Le Mans with the Australian being following by teammate Dani Pedrosa and Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo.
After yesterday's announcement, I definitely felt a weight off my shoulders when I got on the bike this morning.
Stoner began the day where he left off in the first free practice session this morning and continued his pace in the afternoon and ended the first day with a best lap of 1m 33.740s to Pedrosa’s 1m 34.005s with Lorenzo not far behind on his best time of 1m 34.136s.
Speaking about his first outing since announcing his retirement Stoner said, "The sessions today went quite well for us. Believe it or not, today we were trying to create chatter, so we can make the most use of this dry time on track to understand it a little better and make some improvements for the rest of the season. We are happy to use some of the sessions to focus on fixing the chatter issue, and not worry about the set up immediately. We started to find some chatter at the end of the day when we switched to the hard front tyre and hopefully it will stay dry tomorrow so we can continue to work on this."
Stoner also spoke briefly about how he felt on the bike after telling the world of his plans to leave the sport at the end of this year. "After yesterday's announcement, I definitely felt a weight off my shoulders when I got on the bike this morning. The last two races I've had a lot of thoughts running through my mind and this weekend I already feel better knowing it's off my chest and we can now focus on the rest of the season, and try to enjoy it," the two times World Champion said.
Pedrosa was happy with his first two outings on the RC213V at the French circuit. He said, "The feeling was pretty good overall; normally with these cold conditions the track here is very slippery, but the tyres worked well, the grip level is good and we managed two good session practices. We still have some work to do, mainly on the corner entry, but the first impression has been positive so far. It looks like the temperature will drop and some rain is coming, so it's been useful to have time in the dry to get the feeling at a track like this, where you have a lot of wheelie. I didn't test the new front Bridgestone tyre today, but I would like to do it tomorrow if it's dry."
Lorenzo worked on his race pace today and is content with his progress so far. "This morning we had some difficulty entering the corners, I didn’t trust the bike so much. This afternoon we made some changes to the rear and it improved the feeling and the lap time a lot. I did a half race simulation and we had a good pace. We are now ready for a dry race but everyone says it is going to rain which will completely change the conditions," said Lorenzo.
San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Alvaro Bautista had a good first day’s outing on his Honda RC213V sitting in 4th place on the timing sheets recording a best time of 1m 34.437s and one place ahead of Ben Spies on the second Yamaha Factory Racing YZR-M1 (1m 34.467s) with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 riders Andrea Dovizioso in 6th (1m 34.585s) and his teammate Cal Crutchlow in 7th with his best time of 1m 34.610s.
Hector Barbera finished the day as the top Ducati rider for his Pramac Racing Team with a best time of 1m 35.079s while Valentino Rossi in 9th on a best lap of 1m 35.112s and his Ducati Racing teammate Nicky Hayden in 10th recording a time of 1m 35.132s.
Stefan Bradl ended day one in 11th place on his LCR Honda (1m 35.201s) while Karel Abraham was over half a second off the German rookie’s pace with his best lap of 1m 35.787s. Randy de Puniet again finished the day as the top CRT rider (1m 36.438s) despite nursing bruised rubs following a crash two weeks ago at Estoril.
The rest of the CRT machines were next in line with Yonny Hernandez (Avintia Blusens) in 13th place on his best time of 1m 36.928s ahead of Mattia Pasini on his Speed Master ART machine (1m 37.093s) and San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Michele Pirro next in line with a best time of 1m 37.310s.
Aleix Espargaro (Power Electronics Aspar) ended with a best time of 1m 37.585s ahead of Danilo Petrucci for the Came IodaRacing team on a best lap of 1m 38.255s with Avintia Blusens rider Ivan Silva in 18th ahead of James Ellison (Paul Bird Motorsport) with a time of 1m 38.395s. Chris Vermeulen re-entered the MotoGP paddock this week filling in for Colin Edwards who is out of action after breaking his left collarbone after being hit by Randy de Puniet’s errant machine last time out in Estoril.