ROSSI RETURNS TO DOMINANT FORM DOWN UNDER Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi continued his love affair with Phillip Island on the opening day of the Australian Grand Prix as he dominated today's first free practice sessions in warm ...
ROSSI RETURNS TO DOMINANT FORM DOWN UNDER
Gauloises Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi continued his love affair with Phillip Island on the opening day of the Australian Grand Prix as he dominated today's first free practice sessions in warm spring temperatures and bright sunshine. The MotoGP World Champion was quickly inside the pace he set on his way to victory here last season, dipping well under the circuit record with a time of 1'30.349 to comfortably hold off the attentions of Carlos Checa (Ducati) after a series of quick laps at the end of the afternoon session. Checa produced a late effort of his own to reduce the gap to 0.270 seconds, with Nicky Hayden (Honda) and Sete Gibernau (Honda) the only other riders able to lap within a second of the Italian.
Colin Edwards was 1.511 seconds adrift of his Gauloises Yamaha team-mate today as he looked to combine the setting improvements found for the YZR-M1 machine over the course of the season with the base set-up data gathered for this circuit during winter testing. The American ended the day with the seventh fastest time but he is confident of making major improvements tomorrow as he looks to recover the excellent pace he set here in preseason.
VALENTINO ROSSI (1st -- 1'30.349; 51 laps)
"This was a fantastic first day for us, especially the afternoon. In the race at Sepang a few weeks ago we had a few problems even though we had been very fast in preseason, and here it has been the opposite way around. We had a few difficulties in the morning but we worked them out in the afternoon and found a really good setting. The balance of the bike is excellent and when you have a good feeling at this circuit you can have a lot of fun. It is an old style track -- very fast and very technical -- and you need courage to set a quick lap time. Normally we start the weekend behind a few people but today we've been in front and held the advantage all afternoon so I'm really happy. We have some more work to do tomorrow, mainly with the rear tyre, but at the moment the pace is good. The motivation in the team is still very strong even though we already won the championship and we want to stay that way for the final three races of the season."
COLIN EDWARDS (7th -- 1'31.900; 49 laps)
"This is my favourite track but I didn't enjoy it too much today. I had some setting and tyre problems and we definitely have some things to work out! I'm having to fight to turn into the corners and we're nowhere near the level of feeling that I had with the bike during the preseason tests here. The main reason seems to be that we've improved the setting of the bike at the majority of the tracks we've been to this season and here we might just have to take a step backwards. I set a 1'30.2 during the winter so we know what we're capable of if we can find the right setting, which I'm confident we can do tomorrow. I want to be leaving Australia in second place in the championship so that I can hang on for that runner-up spot in the final two rounds."
DAVIDE BRIVIO -- GAULOISES YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR
"It's been a good Friday for Valentino, he has quite a good pace and seems to be comfortable on the bike. Now we will see what further improvements we can make. Colin is having some problems but the team will work hard tomorrow to bring him close to the same level as Valentino. He is challenging for second place in the championship and we have to do everything we can to put him in the right place to fight for it on Sunday."
<pre> COMBINED FREE PRACTICE TIMES: 1. VALENTINO ROSSI ITA Gauloises Yamaha Team 1'30.349 2. Carlos Checa SPA Ducati Marlboro Team 1'30.619 3. Nicky Hayden USA Repsol Honda Team 1'31.016 4. Sete Gibernau SPA Movistar Honda MotoGP 1'31.316 5. Alex Barros BRA Camel Honda 1'31.459 6. Marco Melandri ITA Movistar Honda MotoGP 1'31.459 7. COLIN EDWARDS USA Gauloises Yamaha Team 1'31.900 8. Toni Elias SPA Fortuna Yamaha Team 1'31.951 9. Max Biaggi ITA Repsol Honda Team 1'31.988 10. John Hopkins USA Team Suzuki MotoGP 1'32.065