Competition fierce as Stoner and De Puniet lead Dutch TT practice Preparations for this weekend's Dutch TT got underway in dry conditions at the Assen circuit today with two highly competitive free practice sessions. Such was...
Competition fierce as Stoner and De Puniet lead Dutch TT practice
Preparations for this weekend's Dutch TT got underway in dry conditions at the Assen circuit today with two highly competitive free practice sessions. Such was the fierce nature of the competition, all three tyre manufacturers had at least one bike in the top six, four bike manufacturers filled out the top four, eight different teams made their way into the top ten with just one second separating pace-setter Casey Stoner from 14th-placed rider Alex Hofmann.
Two Bridgestone-shod riders led the way with Ducati's Stoner, the only man to dip under 1m38s on the opening day, leading Kawasaki's on-form Randy de Puniet who posted a succession of consistent laps to finish in second place. John Hopkins was eighth for Suzuki while Alex Barros completed the top ten aboard his Pramac d'Antin Ducati just 0.657s from Stoner.
In what promises to be one of the most closely fought races of the season so far, all eyes will be on the skies tomorrow as rain clouds are expected to develop during the course of the day.
Tyre Talk with Junichi Kawajiri - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
How important were the results from today's free practice sessions? "From today's results, we are able to see just how competitive and close the entire field is here in Assen in these conditions with only one second covering the top fourteen riders. Of course, the results themselves do not mean a lot, but the work we have carried out will be very important for Saturday's race. The weather forecast indicates that we may have some light rain showers tomorrow, so these two free practice sessions could prove to be quite decisive if Saturday is dry. For this reason, I am satisfied with the initial tyre work and evaluations that we have achieved today."
What tyres have Bridgestone's five teams been evaluating today? "Our teams have been concentrating their work using medium specification tyres with most teams opting to use the 16.5'' rear tyres today. The 16.5'' rear is well known by our teams and acts as a reliable base when the teams are setting up their bikes for this circuit, but if it is dry tomorrow we might also consider running the 16'' to see how it performs. Some riders were able to get up to speed quickly today and already conducted reasonably long runs with the medium specification tyre which showed some encouraging results in today's conditions. It is very close between the riders and teams, but Casey and Randy were able to demonstrate this afternoon their potential for Saturday's 26-lap race."
What technical challenges do tyre manufacturers face at this revised Assen track? "I think that like last year, the biggest challenge will be the longevity of the tyres and the grip level over the race distance. This track places most stress on the right-hand side of the tyre because right-hand corners are more numerous than the left, so we must also make sure that the warm-up performance on the left-hand side of the tyre is good. Qualifying will also be important here because it is a tough track for overtaking. Finally, on behalf of Bridgestone, I would like to send regards to Toni Elias after his crash in this morning's free practice session, we wish him the very best wishes for a quick recovery from his injuries."
Dry track - Air 17C, Track 21C, Humidity 48% (Session 1)
Dry track - Air 22C, Track 31C, Humidity 77% (Session 2)
-credit: bridgestone motorsport