Gordon Hatch MotoGP correspondent
Floodlit free practice gets 2012 MotoGP season underway
Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo goes into the first qualifying session of the 2012 MotoGP season at the front of the field after a super display of speed and control over the first two days of free practice for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar at the Losail International Circuit.
Lorenzo moved onto the top of the timing sheets near the end of the final practice session and set a best lap time of 1m 55.302s on board his YZR-M1 ahead of the satellite Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine of Cal Crutchlow who has been at the top end of the timings for the practice sessions and eventually recorded a best time of 1m 55.456s.
I think we have even more potential for improvement tomorrow.
Lorenzo was very happy with his progress and also of the satellite machine’s pace. “I am very happy with today because we improved a lot on yesterday’s lap time. I’m also happy for Cal in second, the bike seems much better than last year for us. I think we have even more potential for improvement tomorrow. We still have a few issues to solve, especially corner entry, but we manage to keep a good pace. I’m going to try my hardest for qualifying tomorrow and see what we can do.”
Despite finishing his first two days of practice really strongly Crutchlow wasn't getting carried away saying, “I'm really happy to be second quickest but I'm not going to get carried away and say I will be on the front row tomorrow night. I think we can certainly be challenging for it but my expectations for the race on Sunday are to be battling for the top six and being closer to the leaders than last year. The start of the session wasn't that great because we went the wrong way with the chassis setting and once we went back to the previous set-up, I was much more comfortable. At the end I used the soft tyre but I had an old hard compound front on. I was pushing the front but I am really happy with the lap time.
I got held up a little bit too on my fastest lap coming out of the last corner by one of the CRT bikes. It just meant I changed from third to fourth gear a bit later than normal and I lost a bit of drive. I'm not going to say that would have put my quickest, but it would have been very close. But to be second and just over one-tenth behind Jorge is great for my confidence. My Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew have done an awesome job, so hopefully we can battling for a similar position tomorrow night in qualifying,” Crutchlow added.
Casey Stoner set the benchmark for most of the first two days on his Repsol Honda RC213V but the reigning World Champion wasn’t able to match Lorenzo’s pace and had to settle with a best time of 1m 55.674s although Stoner’s pace over the first two days will have the rest of the paddock working furiously to shorten the gap to the Australian.
Happy with his first two day’s work Stoner said, “Today has been pretty good for us in general, we has some issues in the first two sessions but we've fixed them slightly in last one which is definitely positive. We've been able to turn down the electronics a lot more and now I have more feeling and connection with the rear tire, which gave me a lot more confidence. This allowed me to do some good lap times with some pretty old tyres. A few people got in our way throughout the session so we were unable to show what we were really capable of, but we know how we feel and we're confident for qualifying tomorrow.”
Crutchlow’s teammate Andrea Dovizioso will be happy with his pace going into tomorrow’s qualifying session after setting a best time of 1m 55.905s Stoner’s teammate Dani Pedrosa who had a heavy crash today and had to use his second machine but nevertheless managed to post the 5th fastest time of the session (1m 56.114s).
The top Ducati of the session was that of Pramac Racing’s Hector Barbera on a best lap time of 1m 56.163s ahead of the Ducati Racing team’s Nicky Hayden (1m 56.402s) and Valentino Rossi (1m 56.535s). MotoGP rookie Stefan Bradl finished in a very accomplished 9th place today with a best lap of 1m 56.751s ahead of Alvaro Bautista on his San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V in 10th on a best lap time of 1m 56.771s.
Ben Spies had a heavy crash today and strained his neck during the crash and finished in 11th place with a best time of 1m 57.030s with the American later tweeting on his Twitter page that his front tire hadn’t got up to the right temperature. Cardion AB Motoracing’s Karel Abraham ended the final practice session in 13th with a best lap of 1m 57.223s.
The CRT machines were next up and it was Randy De Puniet heading the field in 14th on a best lap of 1m 58.261s for the Power Electronics Aspar team however the Frenchman had a heavy fall late in the session but his girlfriend Lauren Vickers tweeting later on her Twitter page saying De Puniet only had bruising to his leg. De Puniet finished ahead of Colin Edwards for the NGM Mobile Forward Racing team with a best lap of 1m 58.310s.
Michele Pirro recorded a best lap of 1m 58.800s on his San Carlo Honda Gresini machine ahead of Yonny Hernandez on his Avintia Blusens machine 1m 59.087s with Aleix Espargaro on the second Power Electronics Aspar machine in 18th place with a best time of 1m 59.169s. Danilo Petrucci and the Came IodaRacing Project ended the day on a best time of 1m 59.517s while Ivan Silva posted a best time of 2m 00.035s ahead of Mattia Pasini and his Speed Master team with a best lap of 2m 00.226s with James Ellison (Paul Bird Motorsport) in last position with a lap time of 2m 00.563s.