The MotoGP World Championship kicks off this weekend at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar. The 2012 teams took to the racetrack for the first time Thursday evening under the lights of Losail, for a short 45-minute free practice session.
Reigning World Champion Casey Stoner set the pace early aboard his Repsol Honda leading Thursday’s practice session with a time of 1:56:474. He was followed closely by Factory Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo (1:56:648) while Ducati’s Nicky Hayden put in a third fastest performance with a time of 1:56:924. Yamaha’s Ben Spies was 4th quickest with a time of 1:56:982 while Stoner’s teammate Dani Pedrosa rounded out the top five with a 1:57:130.
According to Stoner, “the feeling was better at the end of the session.” However the Australian sited braking issues and bad chatter problems for slowing down the pace for most of the session, “It was almost a waste of a session as we spent the time fixing the problem as opposed to improving the bike.”
Jorge Lorenzo was pleased with his results from Thursday’s practice, as he feels his Yamaha is working well and they are edging close to Stoner. The Spanish rider claims he did not push the limits on Thursday evening, as he simply wanted to check everything over while the conditions were not perfect on the sandy desert racetrack.
A humble Nicky Hayden was pleased to record the third quickest time of Thursday’s free practice, but recognizes that there remains a long way to go before race day. According to Hayden, “The first session went well. This track is a lot different than what we experienced in Jerez, more open and a lot wider. It was quite dirty and not very grippy, which helped us a bit. We started off on the hard tire and then switched to the soft for the last exit, and I was able to do a nice lap. In general we were pretty fast and consistent, and I’ve certainly had worse sessions here, but we’ll just stay calm, keep trying to improve and try to get a good grid spot on Saturday night. It’s just one session, and there’s a long way to go. Sunday night is what counts, and it would be nice to get this team a result it deserves.”
Hayden’s teammate, Valentino Rossi spent the 45 minute session experimenting with a hard compound tire on his Desmosedici GP12 while he continues to work on settings and electronics. Rossi was tenth quickest with a time of 1:57:194
Friday evening, MotoGP riders will complete two more Free Practice sessions before qualifying on Saturday night in Qatar.