Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
Yamaha Factory Racing leads the way on day one in Spain
Jorge Lorenzo threw down the gauntlet to the rest of the MotoGP field during the first two Free Practice sessions for the Grand Premi Aperol de Catalunya, Spain, leaving the rest of the field in his wake and setting a new lap record at the same time with Alvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Cal Crutchlow in second and third places respectively.
This is a special race for me so close to my home, I really want to be fighting for the podium.
Lorenzo produced a lighting-quick lap of 1m 42.099s to head the field in the timings with the Spaniard focused on heaping pressure on his nearest rivals in the championship - Casey Stoner who finished in an uncharacteristic 10th position and only managing a 1m 43.134s along with Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa in 7th (1m 42.870s). Lorenzo bested Pedrosa’s circuit record lap of 1m 42.358s that he set in 2008 while Stoner still holds the overall best lap of 1m 41.186s – also set in 2008.
Bautista saw somewhat of a return to form today in front of the Spanish fans and finished with a best time of 1m 42.306s and enough for second place in the timings ahead of Crutchlow’s time of 1m 42.447s to finish third and one place ahead of his teammate Andrea Dovizioso with his best lap of 1m 42.592s around the iconic Spanish Montmélo circuit.
Finishing the day in 5th place was another Spaniard in the form of Hector Barbera (Pramac Racing Team) who also has bragging rights of being the best Ducati today with a lap of 1m 42.639s. Ben Spies ended day one in 6th place for the Yamaha Factory Racing Team with a best lap of 1m 42.802s and one place better than Pedrosa. Stefan Bradl (1m 42.943s) ended the day in 8th place despite a fall during the first session this morning.
Nicky Hayden was first on the timing sheets for the Ducati Team who, despite a private two-day test on the GP12 at Mugello in Italy where the team tested a new engine, have not improved their machine’s pace with Hayden setting a best lap of 1m 43.057s while teammate Valentino Rossi finished three places behind Hayden in 12th on a best lap of 1m 43.538s. Finishing his first day in 11th is Cardion AB Motoracing rider Karel Abraham setting a best lap of 1m 43.341s.
The CRT teams were close behind Rossi on day one with the best time coming from the Power Electronics Aspar bike in the hands of Spain’s Aleix Espargaro on a best lap of 1m 44.738s and just ahead of his teammate Randy de Puniet 1m 44.771s. Finishing in 15th was the San Carlo Honda Gresini CRT machine of Michele Pirro (1m 45.631s) while Colin Edwards (1m 45.868s) returned to action this weekend for the NGM Forward Racing team after breaking his left collarbone following a fall at the Estoril round four weeks ago.
Yonny Hernandez sits in 17th for the Avintia Blusens Team with a best lap time of 1m 46.450s and one place ahead of his teammate Ivan Silva (1m 46.500s). Mattia Pasini (Speed Master) ended day one in 19th with a best lap of 1m 46.503s with Paul Bird Motorsport rider James Ellison sitting in 20th on a best lap of 1m 46.836s and one place ahead of the Danilo Petrucci for his Came IodaRacing Project team with a best lap of 1m 47.436s.
Lorenzo was very pleased with his first outing on front of his home fans. He said, “The feeling is good today, we started this morning two tenths behind Casey, then this afternoon from the beginning we’ve been in first position. We tried the hard rear tire, which is very important for this track because it’s a real possibility for the race on Sunday.”
“We must improve some little details, especially the braking as we are arriving in the corners at a very high speed but generally we are good. This is a special race for me so close to my home, I really want to be fighting for the podium and the victory for the fans who have come to see me,” the 2010 Champion added.
Bautista had issues with rear grip earlier today but his team worked hard to find a better setting in the afternoon’s session. He said, “It has been a really good start and the guys have done a great job. This morning I was struggling for rear traction but this afternoon it improved a lot. I didn't have a good feeling on the hard tyre no matter what we changed on the setting but on the soft tyre my pace was decent. Tomorrow we'll try to see if we can do full race distance on the soft tyre because it would be a great option for us if we can. We'll work in that direction tomorrow and hopefully we'll get some joy but for now we're happy anyway.”
Crutchlow continues to set times good enough for top five positions and Catalunya is no different saying, “Today was a good start to the weekend and I was fast and competitive in both sessions. The bike was working well right from the start but we can definitely improve it for the rest of the weekend. I need to focus on being faster in the last two corners. On times I'm not too bad in that part of the track but I don't feel very comfortable, so we need to work on the setting to improve in that section for tomorrow.”
“I am not so far away from the top and can definitely improve my pace, but my best time was done on the soft tyre at the end. I see Casey and Dani only used the hard tyre, so you have to believe that they will be much higher up. I am still happy with my performance today and it is always good to make a positive and fast start to the weekend to build up confidence,” Crutchlow added