Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey this afternoon with Chris Vermeulen ending Friday free practice as the highest placed Bridgestone-shod rider with the fifth fastest time of the day (1m24.253s). Vermeulen has recent race winning experience of the ...
Laguna Seca circuit in Monterey this afternoon with Chris Vermeulen ending Friday free practice as the highest placed Bridgestone-shod rider with the fifth fastest time of the day (1m24.253s). Vermeulen has recent race winning experience of the Laguna Seca track, having won a pair of World Superbike races at the circuit in 2004, so the rookie Australian will be hoping that experience proves advantageous as this year's event unfolds over the next few days.
Vermeulen's California-born team-mate John Hopkins got his home grand prix off to a top ten start by posting the tenth fastest time of the day. His time of 1m24.663s in the afternoon session was six-hundredths-of-a-second shy of his Friday best of 1m24.608s, which had been good enough for fourth quickest in the morning practice hour. Ducati riders Loris Capirossi and Sete Gibernau were 13th and 14th fastest in the combined session with Capirossi's afternoon time of 1m25.094s marginally edging out his Spanish team-mate's morning time of 1m25.150s.
Kawasaki's Shinya Nakano and Randy de Puniet were also barely separable with 16th-placed Nakano (1m25.598s) beating De Puniet (1m25.651s) into 17th spot on the Frenchman's Laguna Seca debut. The 3.610km Laguna Seca circuit took control in today's two practice sessions as the recently renewed asphalt unveiled new track characteristics for Bridgestone's engineers to deal with, as the riders concurrently tried to get to grips with the challenging track behaviour.
Shinji Aoki, Assistant Manager Motorcycle Race Tire Development
"We always knew that the resurfacing of the Laguna Seca circuit would result in altered track characteristics today but we perhaps did not expect it to be quite so bumpy compared to last year. It is of course slippery, as all newly laid circuits are at first, but we can expect this to improve as the weekend progresses. As far as today goes, it has been difficult to select the best specification of tyre as riders have also been forced to effectively relearn the circuit with their respective bikes. Trying to find the best settings with three sets of variables - bike, rider and tyre has been tough but I do not think that results from today are entirely conclusive. We will be chasing a moving target if the track keeps changing all weekend. We encountered some issues with front tyre wear at times today, something we are looking at closely. We have alternative specifications to evaluate ahead of qualifying tomorrow, but we have seen some signs of encouragement from Chris Vermeulen's times, which have undoubtedly been boosted by the confidence he has acquired at this circuit from his victories in superbikes. All in all, it has been a mixed opening day, but rest assured we will work even harder tomorrow morning."