Stoner takes first night honours in Qatar Reigning MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner topped the timesheets on the opening night of free practice at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar as the championship's first ever night race got...
Stoner takes first night honours in Qatar
Reigning MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner topped the timesheets on the opening night of free practice at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar as the championship's first ever night race got underway on Friday, marking the start of the 2008 season. Stoner's best lap of 1m55.442s was 1.1s quicker than the current circuit record which he himself set twelve months ago en route to his debut MotoGP victory aboard his Bridgestone-shod Ducati.
A total of five Bridgestone-shod riders frequented the top ten at the end of the second practice session on Friday, held in the cooler track conditions likely to be faced in Sunday night's race, hinting that important progress has been made since last week's tricky two-day test at the Qatari track.
MotoGP rookie Alex de Angelis posted an impressive and encouraging sixth fastest time of the day for the Honda Gresini team, just six-tenths-of-a-second adrift of Stoner's pace-setting time. Both Suzuki riders Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi made their way up the standings in the later second session with Vermeulen ending the day with the ninth quickest time overall, just behind Yamaha's Valentino Rossi, whose first session time was good enough for the eighth best time of the day.
Bridgestone struggled to find pace at last week's test as track temperatures plummeted to less than 15C in the chilly Qatar night, but working closely with its teams to find improvements to the bike-tyre package during the test and in Friday's two practice sessions, appears to be paying dividends. Bridgestone has brought some new specification race tyres for each team and rider since last week's test, as well as specifications that have been previously tested, in order to provide the most competitive rubber possible for this difficult opening race of the season at Qatar, a circuit at which Bridgestone has struggled in the past.
Tyre Talk with Tohru Ubukata - Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
How satisfied are you with Friday's work?
"I am reasonably satisfied with the work carried out on this first day. We have been the first to admit that we faced difficulties at last week's test, but we have worked well with our teams and riders today to improve the overall package and we have seen some progress both in terms of tyre performance and lap time. We still have some way to go, but it has been a relatively trouble-free day. This evening's second session is probably the most representative for the performance level because the track conditions and temperatures are most like what we will encounter on Sunday evening. In this second session, we saw five riders on Bridgestone tyres in the top ten, which is a marked improvement on the test results, but it is a highly competitive field already with some very fast MotoGP newcomers."
What specification tyres have Bridgestone riders been using in these first two practice sessions?
"We started off in the first session by using the same specification tyres we used in last week's test, to enable the teams to find a good starting point for the weekend. The track was around 25C, which was a few degrees warmer than at the same time last week, but temperatures dropped during the evening, as predicted. Later on, we also looked at a new specification tyre that we brought from Japan after the test, but the existing test items also appear to be working better this weekend, so we have a few options. Qatar is quite a unique race track and the added complication of cooler night conditions has offered us a real challenge for this first race of the season. Tomorrow we will face another difficult evening with the qualifying session, but we will continue to do our best to support our teams and riders."