Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo took to the track today for the first free practice sessions ahead of this weekend’s Grand Prix of The Americas.
The first day’s action on the Circuit of The Americas (COTA) proved to be a tough one for both Rossi and Lorenzo as they began the hunt for an optimum set up for Sunday. Nine-time world champion Rossi dropped a place from fourth to fifth between the two sessions but was able to improve his lap time by just over a second as he got to grips with the Texan track to finish just three tenths from second placed rider Andrea Dovizioso.
Teammate Lorenzo was also able to make a big step into the second session after a frustrating start to the day saw him end practice one in 12th place. The Mallorcan worked hard through session two, climbing as high as third at one point before settling for eighth in the combined times, less than two tenths from his teammate in fifth.
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team’s Bradley Smith and Pol Espargaro finished today’s free practice sessions in optimistic spirits, both riders lowered their lap times from the first free practice session by a full second with the conditions being sunny and dry, at the state of the art track, which features the longest straight of a circuit on the Grand Prix calendar.
Bradley Smith relentlessly amassed a total of 36 laps of the Texan circuit across both of today’s sessions to finish in 10th place in the combined times. In his second appearance aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1 in Texas, Smith posted a best time of 2:05.366 which means that he has already lapped faster than last year, with a gap of just over half a second to the fastest Factory Yamaha of Valentino Rossi. After having spent the first day evaluating all of the possible tyre options and setting his fastest time on the harder one, the young British rider remains confident of a top 6 result in tomorrow’s qualifying session.
Rookie Pol Espargaro proceeded to collected valuable data today as he refined the setup of his Yamaha YZR-M1 MotoGP bike, whilst also sampling the 2013 Bridgestone tyres for the first time ever at the challenging Circuit of the Americas. The reigning Moto2 World Champion finished in 12th position with a best time of 2:05.672 and just over half a second from Factory Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. The Spanish rider who is aiming for a top 10 finish in the race event on Sunday, is now back to full health following his collarbone injury, and completed 31 laps around the 5.513 kilometre circuit.
NGM Forward Racing's Aleix Espargaro completed the morning session in second place behind Marc Marquez, the fastest rider today, and he closed the FP2 in sixth position with 2’04.844, less than 2 tenths from the provisional podium. The Spaniard struggled to find a constant pace on the technical COTA circuit, famous for its long1.2 km back straight and the slow corners to do in first gear.
It was not an easy start also for team mate Colin Edwards, who closed in 16th position with 2’06.880. The Texas Tornado worked on the bike set up to adapt his machine on the demanding Texan racetrack.
“I’m quite satisfied about today because I already have a good feeling with the bike. We have a lot to improve but the general balance of the bike is not so bad. This morning I was fourth and this afternoon I am fifth. I’m not happy with that because I have a better potential but I don't work well with the soft tyre yet. I think I have the possibility to go a bit faster and stay with the top three but I’m not yet able to use the maximum potential of the tyre. We have to continue and work to improve the balance and the setting, I also need to improve my riding style and try the maximum for tomorrow.”
“It looks like compared to the Hondas we are struggling, more or less the same as we were last year. We made a big step from the morning session although still too far from Marquez in first but not so far from second place. We need to make adjustments to the bike and electronics to make a perfect set up and also I need to improve myself as an influence. On the bike I feel a little tired, but compared to the morning session I feel happier.”
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“There is a gap to the front at the moment but we are honestly in a better position than last year when we started here so I am confident we can improve session by session, exactly as we did at the last round in Qatar. Both riders performed well today, I believe Vale’s gap to the front would have been smaller if he had been using a softer tyre but he spent most of the second session working with the hardest option to see what was possible. Jorge made a big improvement from the first session, working as hard as possible despite still recovering from a flu virus. We’re going to take today’s data now and work tonight to prepare the next steps for tomorrow so we can take the set up a step further.”
“The biggest positive of today is that I am riding faster and more confident on the track compared to last year. I feel great with the bike especially in sector 1 and 3, but I still need to improve in the second part of the circuit as well as in the last one. This afternoon we were able to test both tyre solutions, the medium one as well as the hard one. With the hard tyre I feel really good and I also did my fastest lap with it. However, as the weather may change we will have to choose the tyre accordingly for the rest of the weekend, but we are in a good position to make the right decision. Overall, today was useful as we collected very valuable data and we know how to go quicker, which will hopefully be by another second.”
“Today has been a tricky day and a big challenge for me. There was a lot to learn and this track is really difficult. If you make a slight mistake with the line at the beginning of the second corner, you finish completely off line at the end of the corner sequence. Also using the 2013 Bridgestone tyre for the first time did not make things easy. That’s why I think I am pushing a bit too much, I definitely want to ride smoother because it’s the only way to be fast with the Yamaha. So I just need to relax more on the bike, and continue to work with my team and for sure we can improve. There are things to be changed, but I am confident that I can qualify well and I am ready to give it my all tomorrow.”
“I’m not very satisfied because I cannot be consistent. There are 3 or 4 corners that we do in first gears and for sure we need to improve the engine brake and also the braking stability. I know that we can be faster on a single lap but in preparation of the race, we need to have a more consistent race pace. It cost me a bit to understand this track, but it’s only the first day and we will continue working”.
“The COTA racetrack is awesome and it’s a great feeling to come here driving my car with my family instead of taking a long flight overseas. The support is incredible and I would like to get a good result, but I’m still struggling a lot to make the bike turn. We will keep on working on the bike set up to improve my feeling with the front”.