PRoton riders take steps in France. Jeremy McWilliams: 14th, 1:37.575 Nobuatsu Aoki: 16th, 1:37.971 Proton Team KR riders Jeremy McWilliams and Nobu Aoki were chasing hard and moving forward in today's first timed practice for Sunday's French...
PRoton riders take steps in France.
Jeremy McWilliams: 14th, 1:37.575
Nobuatsu Aoki: 16th, 1:37.971
Proton Team KR riders Jeremy McWilliams and Nobu Aoki were chasing hard and moving forward in today's first timed practice for Sunday's French GP, working to maximise their strengths and minimise their disadvantages at the slow and twisty Bugatti circuit at Le Mans - a stop-and-go circuit that doesn't favour their lightweight three-cylinder machines.
Even so, both riders were well qualified for Sunday's race, and looking for further improvements in tomorrow's final day of practice for the fourth round of the new MotoGP season, which allows new and very powerful 990cc four-strokes in against the established 500cc two-stroke opposition.
Once again, times were ultra-close, setting new records for the premier motorcycle racing class - McWilliams was the last of 14 riders within one second of Carlos Checa's provisional pole time, set on a Yamaha four-stroke, with Aoki less than half-a-second behind. All 20 entrants were within 2.7 seconds of the fastest time, the closest in the 53-year history of the sport.
The tortuous Bugatti circuit has been slightly altered this year, with a fast sweeping left-hand curve now leading into the first right-hand U-turn, itself faster than previously. These changes have helped the Proton KR3 500, which takes the greatest advantage of its light weight and superb handling in corner speed; but the U-turns and linking short straights put more emphasis on acceleration, tipping the scales in favour of the heavier but more powerful four-cylinder two-strokes and 990cc four-strokes.
"I went quite well early on and I should have been able to capitalise on that, but with rain coming at the end of the session the track temperature was dropping all the time, and our Bridgestone tyres work better when it's warmer, so I couldn't do that. At least the times were consistently in the 1:38 bracket, but I think the race will be in the 37s, and that will be difficult. The new track layout is a little better, with a bit more character, but in fact I always liked the old track, though a lot of riders criticised it. It still has all the short straights, and that's always going to be difficult for us."
"This morning we tried our Jerez settings that took us to seventh place there, but they didn't work at all. In the afternoon we used the South African settings, with the engine mounted lower, and it was a big improvement in general machine balance. There is still a lot more to come, though. What I miss is front tyre grip at the very start of the bends - the forks are diving alright, but I want the tyre to bite more before that happens. Maybe that will come from a heavier spring, or more preload, or more damping oil. We'll try tomorrow, and then we should go much better."
KENNY ROBERTS - Team Owner
"It's going like we thought. The bikes are performing well and reliably, but there is too much stop-and-go here for us, and we never were going to impress many people. There aren't fast corners where we can use our corner speed. It's a weekend to get through as best we can."