News 10 Apr 2010

MotoGP: Stoner starts 2010 with a bang on Friday in Qatar

Stoner was the man to beat on Friday in Qatar.

Stoner was the man to beat on Friday in Qatar.

Ducati Marlboro rider Casey Stoner stamped his authority on the opening free practice session tonight in Qatar, finishing at the top of the timesheet and more than half a second ahead of his nearest rival, Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo.

Despite playing down his chances of a fourth consecutive victory during yesterday’s pre-event press conference, Stoner took charge from early in the session, with his fastest time of 1:55.500 coming on the 9th of the 17 laps completed during the hour-long practice.

The winner of the last three MotoGP races in Qatar, all under floodlights, Stoner showed his rivals today that he has every intention of claiming his fourth consecutive victory in Sunday’s 22-lap race.

Jorge Lorenzo pipped his Fiat Yamaha teammate, and reigning World Champion, Valentino Rossi by just 0.002 to take second place on the timesheet with his final flying lap, but then crashed uninjured just as the session came to a close.

Andrea Dovizioso overcame the problems he has had with the Repsol Honda during pre-season testing, to finish the session in fourth place, just 0.095 ahead of Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden.

Ben Spies, making his debut as a full-time MotoGP rider here in Qatar, was an impressive sixth fastest aboard the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 bike, finishing the session just 0.025 behind his fellow countryman and six places ahead of his more experienced teammate, Colin Edwards.

Alvaro Bautista was another rider who impressed on his MotoGP debut, as he took the Rizla Suzuki to seventh place on the timesheet, well ahead of his teammate, Loris Capirossi, who crashed uninjured early on in the session and eventually finished in 13th position.

Randy de Puniet, Mika Kallio and another MotoGP first timer, Hector Barbera on the Paginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati, rounded out the top ten.

Alex De Angelis finished the first ever Moto2 free practice with the fastest time, after demoting 17-year-old Briton Scott Redding from the top of the timesheet right at the end of the hour-long session.

Redding was the first to stake his claim for the number one spot, turning in his fastest time of 2:03.834 with just 15 minutes of the session remaining. The Marc VDS rider held on at the top of the timesheet until just five minutes before the end, when De Angelis bettered his time by over half a second on his RSM Team Scot machine.

Reigning 125cc World Champion Julian Simon finished third fastest aboard his Mapfre Aspar RSV, just 0.199s ahead of Swiss rider, Dominique Aegerter, who surprised everyone with a near perfect lap in the dying moments of the session.

Stefan Bradl was fifth fastest on his Viessman Kiefer Suter MMX, followed closely by Roberto Rolfo, Alex Debon, Karel Abraham and former 125cc World Champion Gabor Talmacsi.

Alex Baldolini rounded out the top ten, in a field that numbered 41 riders.

Derbi proved that they would be a potent force in this year’s 125cc World Championship, by taking the four top spots on the timesheet during this evening’s opening free practice session in Qatar.

Pol Espargaro led the charge, recording a time of 2:07.218 to secure the honours as today’s fastest rider. Efren Vasquez was second quickest, just 0.312 adrift of his teammate. Another Derbi, this time in Red Bull colours and ridden by Marc Marquez, claimed third place, with Sandro Cortese and his Avant Mitsubishi Ajo branded bike in fourth position.

Spaniard Nico Terol was the highest placed rider on an Aprilia, taking fifth place for the Bancaja Aspar team ahead of the similarly mounted Randy Krummenacher and Esteve Rabat.

Johann Zarco and Tomoyoshi Koyama finished in eight and ninth place respectively, while Danny Webb rounded out the top ten, despite crashing his Andalucia Cajasol Aprilia and taking no part in the final 17 minutes of the session.

Runner-up in last year’s 125cc World Championship Bradley Smith finished down in 12th place, having spent much of the session making adjustments to his Bancaja Aspar Aprilia.

Click here for detailed results

Casey Stoner: “Today felt really good – we had a similar rhythm to the test and I didn’t feel to be pushing too hard. I had a really good feeling from the start and actually when we changed the setting I went faster but didn’t feel as good, so we need to work on that. This is obviously a good circuit for me but we’re taking things steadily. The target for this weekend is to take away some solid points and make a good start to the season. It is early days and we’re not getting carried away. We set some good lap times today but everybody else will improve so we have to work hard tomorrow and make sure we stay on the pace right through until Sunday night.”

Nicky Hayden: “We took a little while getting going today. We had just a little bit of confusion around the tyre choice at the start – I just couldn’t get a feeling for the bike for the first twenty minutes when we were on the softer tyre but when we switched to a hard tyre things picked up straight away and I was able to improve the lap times. I went about as fast as I did at the test consistently so that’s encouraging. This is a good start to the season even if we have plenty of room for improvement.”

Jorge Lorenzo: “I’m quite happy about tonight and about my hand; I tried riding for the first time without the extra hand protection and I was okay. I felt good on the bike and my thumb didn’t really hurt, it was a lot better than at the test. We still have a few things on the bike that we need to work on but we have made a good start. It was a pity to crash, I was pushing hard at the time and I just made a small mistake, touching the white line; these things happen and luckily I didn’t hurt myself. Tomorrow we’ll continue our work and try to improve more.”

Valentino Rossi: “Honestly I expected to be faster today – the lap time is not bad but it could be better. The conditions are much better than during the test, it’s warmer and a lot less humid so I’m happy about that, but we don’t have enough grip and I was sliding quite a lot so we need to try to find a way to improve this. Stoner is always very fast here and I hope we can close the gap to him by making some small changes to our suspension. If we can stop the bike sliding then we will be a lot faster.”

Ben Spies: “I didn’t want anything crazy to go on with it being the first race. I wanted to be in the top ten for the first session of the year because the last time I rode the bike I fell, so I just wanted to clear my head and get off to a good start. To be in the top ten in the first session and right in sixth, I’m happy with that. We never really threw a lap time in and the session was pretty smooth. We went out on the hard tyres and it was good. We did our quickest lap on the 21st lap, which is close to a full race. Every time we went out the times were getting faster. Besides the top three guys, I think we’ve got pretty good speed, which is really important. We need to get some time on the softer tyre so when qualifying comes we can use it to its full potential. I still think we’ve got a second at least with fresh hard tyres on the bike, so I’m pretty happy about that.”

Colin Edwards: “I left the test last month in a bit of a grey area and wondering about a couple of things because the bike has a different geometry this year and it’s changed the feel a bit. I’ve been trying to adapt to it but I need to make some changes and bring the set-up closer to what I had last year. Right now I’m not feeling all that comfortable. I feel like I’m chasing the bike on the front and it doesn’t turn until I open the throttle. With this bike you can’t ride it without momentum. That’s one of its strong points and right now I can’t take advantage of that. We’ll take some weight off the front for tomorrow night and in my opinion that will help. I think 12th is a bit of a false position because I’m sure with some changes I’ve got another second in me. Right now there’s too many corners where I can’t carry the momentum I want. But I’m confident we can improve a lot.”

Alvaro Bautista: “I am happy with what we have done this evening. The track condition was not as good as the test, but I’m still close to the best time I’ve ever done here. I’m only one-tenth off my best time and pleased with that. I had some problems getting the grip I wanted and it didn’t feel as good as the test, so I tried the other chassis to see if it was better. It was and I feel it is certainly a step in the right direction, so we will continue to work with the new frame for the rest of the weekend. I hope that tomorrow I can improve my time and I think that it will be possible. We have all done a good job today and because this is my first race there is not much pressure on me so I am happy with that and I can just get on and do my best.”

Loris Capirossi: “It has not been so good tonight, because when I went out for my third run I tried some different things and I crashed. I then went out on the other bike and took it carefully to get the feeling back and towards the end of the session I was doing better and my time started to improve. Our potential is much better than what we did today, but I am not angry because I know we can improve a lot more tomorrow – that should be quite easy to do because today was not good enough.”