De Puniet impresses as Bridgestone gets to grips with resurfaced Sepang Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet set a searing pace under cloudy skies at the Sepang International Circuit this afternoon to lead the opening day of practice in preparation for ...
De Puniet impresses as Bridgestone gets to grips with resurfaced Sepang
Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet set a searing pace under cloudy skies at the Sepang International Circuit this afternoon to lead the opening day of practice in preparation for Sunday's Malaysian GP with an impressive time of 2m02.917s.
2007 MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner was right on De Puniet's tail at the end of the second session, just 0.011s slower than the Frenchman aboard his Ducati. De Puniet and Stoner's best times today were just 0.8s slower than the best race pace set by Loris Capirossi on a Bridgestone-shod 990cc Ducati in last year's event.
Marco Melandri completed the top three after a solid day's work, while his Honda Gresini team-mate Toni Elias was in an encouraging sixth place. One place ahead of Elias was an equally impressive Anthony West, who was classified in fifth, making it two Kawasakis in the top five. Both Suzukis also got off to flying starts with Chris Vermeulen and John Hopkins in eighth and ninth.
Bridgestone has brought harder specification tyres to this weekend's Malaysian Grand Prix in order to combat the demands of the new asphalt, which has resulted in a Sepang track that is more aggressive on tyres than in the past. Also considering the stresses placed on the central part of the tyre down the two ultra long straights, Bridgestone will continue to analyse the performance of the tyres over longer runs tomorrow as the track continues to pick up pace ahead of Sunday's 21-lap race.
Tyre Talk with Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
What work has Bridgestone focussed on today?
"As usual we have used the two Friday sessions to compare the different compounds that we have available this weekend. The morning session was important to understand how the new asphalt affects tyre performance because it was quite a step into the unknown for everyone today. The lap times were quite slow as we all began to understand the subtle differences in the track characteristics. The second session was cut short really by the lunchtime rain and the track did not dry out until half way through the hour. Once the track improved, the lap times dropped compared to the morning session with Randy lapping only 0.8s slower than last year's race best."
How has the recently resurfaced asphalt affected tyre performance? "The new surface is very smooth and initially lap times were around five seconds slower than the best race pace that we saw in last year's GP (2m02.127s set by Loris Capirossi), but these times were greatly reduced in the afternoon. From today's results we can see that the newly laid track is more abrasive on tyres, so we have to use harder specs compared to last year and pre-season testing. There are different specs within the hard range, but generally the tyres we have are among the hardest tyres we will use this season. There is a lot of work to be done but, from a tyre point of view, the most important job is to understand the performance and consistency of the rubber over the 21 lap race distance. This is something we will work on tomorrow, weather of course permitting."