The opening day of free practice for the US Grand Prix took place at Laguna Seca today with Ducati MotoGP Team riders Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden back on track just six days after contesting the Dutch TT at the Assen circuit in Holland. A 10,000 kilometre trip and eight-hour time difference have not made life easier for any of the riders but for Stoner in particular this promises to be a particularly taxing weekend, with the Australian having suffered from physical exhaustion at the past two rounds.
Stoner has seen doctors this week and is on new medication but he was already feeling nauseous after just an hour on track today. Despite his problems, the 2007 race winner lapped third fastest, just 0.189 seconds off the pace off the day’s quickest rider. His team-mate Hayden, the 2005 and 2006 race winner here, struggled to find a set-up for the Desmosedici on his first appearance at his home circuit as a Ducati rider.
CASEY STONER (Ducati MotoGP Team) (3rd; 1’22.170)
“I had plenty of time to recover between the Barcelona and Assen races but still encountered the same problems, so it’s no surprise to come here after just six days and be struggling. The feeling of tiredness and sickness has started earlier than it did in those two race weekends so it’s not looking good but again we have found a good set-up with the bike, we know we have something competitive and I just wish I was able to use it more. Since Barcelona we’ve found a geometry set-up that gives me great feeling but I’m not getting the most out of it – I know it can go faster round here. We’ll just have to see how the weekend pans out. It is hard for the doctors because I don’t have any symptoms until I am physically tired, at which point I go rapidly down the other side of the hill, so it’s not like they can give me antibiotics because they don’t know what it is. Anyway, they have given me something new to try here and we’ll see if we can bring it back for race day. If it works I’ll be very grateful.”
NICKY HAYDEN – (Ducati MotoGP Team) (14th; 1’23.747)
“We’re near the back again so that’s not cool and not what I was hoping for. In some places the bike feels quite good but in other places, coming out of the corners, it feels pretty flat and I don’t have enough acceleration. Usually this is a strong point of the Ducati so it’s a little strange so we’ll have a look at the mapping and see if we can figure out the problem tonight. Normally around here you have a lot of wheelies and I don’t have any so it’s obviously something we need to put right. I’ve got a new helmet design here for the 4th July. It is tradition to let off fireworks here so that is the basis of the design, although on the track we haven’t let anything go yet! Hopefully we can get a better direction with the engine tomorrow and find some spark!”