By Gordon Hatch - MotoGP correspondent
- Pedrosa sets fastest time
- Stoner second fast for Honda 1-2
- Lorenzo ended third for Yamaha
Honda riders Stoner and Pedrosa set pace again at second round of 2011 MotoGP championship but top six separated by less than one second
Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner once again stand at the top of the timing sheets at round two of the 2011 MotoGP Championship Gran Premio bwin de España at Jerez where the two factory Honda riders have been untouchable with reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo trailing in third place.
Both of today’s free practice sessions were dominated by the RC212Vs of Pedrosa and Stoner and despite the Spaniard coming out on top in FP2 setting a best time of 1m 40.101s to that of Stoner’s 1m 40.289s, it was the 2007 champion who remained at the top on combined times. Times at the second practice session were affected a little by an increase in temperature and a strong wind blowing around the Jerez circuit.
"The first session went well and I had a good feeling with the bike," commented Stoner, "we tried to repeat this in the afternoon session but the conditions weren't perfect - it was quite windy. It seems to be a little smoother to ride here than in the past, but it's a shame the weather wasn't better so we could spend some time working on the settings."
The Honda pairing continue to push each other to the limit as they did at the first round in Qatar and both riders even broke into the high 1m.39 second mark earlier in the day when conditions were a little better. Lorenzo couldn’t manage to get closer to the two Hondas setting his best time of 1m 40.623s.
"This morning the track was perfect with no wind but in the afternoon it came so the riding was more difficult," explained Lorenzo. "Finally we finished third, the gap to the front is less than before and we hope to improve the bike more for tomorrow."
Pedrosa remains cautious about Sunday’s race despite topping the timing sheets after it was confirmed that he is suffering from an intermittent compression of the subclavian artery in his left arm that caused the loss of power and second place at the Qatar Grand Prix two weeks ago. Pedrosa’s new problem comes after surgery on his left collarbone that he broke last year at the Japanese GP at the Twin Ring Motegi.
"I think we are doing a good job," said Pedrosa. "The bike was working OK, it was moving a little but maybe because the grip was not so good today; other riders were also struggling with it and we saw some crashes in all the categories."
While Lorenzo struggled to get to reach the Repsol Hondas on his YZR-M1, San Carlo Honda Gresini rider Marco Simoncelli continues his recent vein of form and finished just behind Lorenzo setting a best time of 1m 40.701s and nearly a full third of a second ahead of his compatriot, Ducati Marlboro rider Valentino Rossi (1m 40.956s) who managed a lot better at the Spanish track than at Qatar.
Rossi pushed hard in both sessions and at one stage he was the only rider near the Hondas and put him in third place in FP1. The seven-times MotoGP Champion worked hard in the glorious Andalusian sunshine in FP2 but his chances of setting faster times were hampered by the high track temperatures.
"Apart from the two Hondas at the front, we’re closer to everyone else, which was our goal," said Rossi. "It was a good day. There’s still work to do; we’re trying to find the right balance, and that’s why we’re trying two settings that are a little different from each other as we work on weight distribution."
"As for my shoulder, I don’t have much strength, but in terms of endurance, it’s a little better," added the Doctor.
Following close behind ‘The Doctor’ was satellite Ducati rider Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) who also improved on his performance in Qatar last time out with his Ducati GP11 to set a best time of 1m 40.982s in FP2. The Frenchman was able to keep ahead of the second Factory Yamaha of Ben Spies (1m 41.053s) who is riding at the Spanish circuit for only the second time in his career.
"Im not feeling very comfortable with how the bike is handling but its only Friday," admitted Spies. "We have tomorrow and we have Sunday morning and Im confident we can get the bike working better. I think this track can be good for the M1, we just need to change the setting and see how tomorrow goes. Well work on it and come back in the morning and go faster."
Spies pipped Rossi’s teammate Nicky Hayden into 7th by less than .100s with Hayden and his GP11 also suffering from the change in conditions in FP2 where in the earlier FP1 session he and Rossi were close together. The second of the San Carlo Honda Gresini’s came next in the form of Hiroshi Aoyama who set a best time of 1m 41.292s to earn him ninth spot.
Aoyama finished ahead of MotoGP rookie Karel Abraham on his Cardion AB Motoracing Ducati to take the final spot in the top ten and the Czech rider will be hoping for a strong performance in Spain after taking points in his first ever MotoGP race in Qatar where he finished in 13th position.
The Ducati of Abraham finished ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards (1m 41.337s) who was experiencing problems with getting his bike to turn that led to a number of changes to the bike that helped somewhat but will not aid his chances of going a full race distance without the severe risk of crashing leaving Edwards with a lot to think about ahead of Qualifying and the race.
"We tried a bit of an experimental set-up with one bike we thought would work to help with the turning performance but it didn't quite give us the result we were anticipating," explained Edwards. "It worked in some areas but it created some other issues, so we'll go back to more of a similar set-up to what we ran in Qatar for tomorrow and we know that works. I was actually faster using the different setting but I just don't feel I can run that pace consistently over a race distance."
The third Repsol Honda rider, Andrea Dovizioso came next in an uncharacteristic 12th position after a crash in FP1 that didn’t look to have done the Dovi any harm but causing him to lose valuable set-up time. The Italian was followed in 13th by Mapfre Aspar rider Hector Barbera whose efforts gained him a best time of 1m 41.665s.
Pramac Racing’s Loris Capirossi finished in 14th with a best time of 1m 41.810s to put him ahead of British MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) who set a time of 1m 41.854s to put him ahead of John Hopkins - the ex full-time Suzuki MotoGP rider is standing in for Alvaro Bautista who broke his left femur in qualifying in Qatar. Despite being off a MotoGP bike now for 3 years when he last rode in 2008 and the last time for Suzuki in 2007 ‘Hopper’ set a time of 1m 42.305s grabbing 16th place ahead of the 17th and last of the field, Toni Elias who is still struggling to get to grips with his LCR Honda.