Ducati Marlboro Team riders Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden benefited from an extended spell of sunny weather at Phillip Island today as they began set-up work on their Desmosedici GP9 machines in the first free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix. Strong winds and heavy overnight rain gave way to largely blue skies this morning, allowing for a crucial opening 45-minutes of dry track time in the afternoon although both riders struggled to find grip on the cool track surface.
The Australian, celebrating his 24th birthday today, led the time sheets in the early stages of the session and stayed firm in second place after being dislodged by Valentino Rossi, closing to within 0.135 seconds of the Italian with an exciting final lap. Hayden also improved on his final effort but despite making a positive start and holding firm in the top ten for the majority of the session his best time was only good enough for eleventh place.
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) (2nd; 1’31.167)
“I’m not that happy with today’s session to be honest. The track conditions weren’t good at all and we struggled for traction, which is usually a strong point of our bike. We tried a few different settings, one of which gave us better rear grip but compensated in turning, which was otherwise really good. The front end was quite consistent throughout so it’s just a case of working on the rear tomorrow and hoping that the track conditions improve so that we can find where the limits are. The weather is always a worry here and there was a point in the session this afternoon where it began to spot with rain just as I was heading into turn one and I came back in. I probably had my best setting at that point so the lap time could have been better but I think it has been a difficult day for everybody so we’re not too concerned.”
NICKY HAYDEN – (Ducati Marlboro Team) (11th; 1’32.771)
“We got a bit of sunshine today so the track temperatures came up a little but there were a few spots of rain out there during the session and that didn’t help. I came out of the gate pretty fast but found it difficult to improve from there and I’m not really happy to be this far off the pace. In the past it has taken me a while to get up to speed here, even when I have had good results, so I’m not too worried but we definitely need to get the bike working better – especially over the bumps – and find some more edge grip. Hopefully we can take a big step tomorrow.”