Nicky Hayden confers with his crew during practice for the Sachsenring MotoGP race.
Casey Stoner was under the lap record in his first practice session.
New electronics on his Yamaha M1 have given Colin Edwards more speed.
Laguna MotoGP winner Dani Pedrosa got to try a new-spec engine in his Honda RC212V.
Valentino Rossi is still looking for a bit more confidence in his Yamaha M1's setup.
Jorge Lorenzo is still smarting from his injuries suffered at Laguna Seca.
Although the weather was initially sunny and warm in Germany this morning, a lunchtime thunderstorm left the Sachsenring circuit soaking wet for the opening free practice session of the German Grand Prix. Nicky Hayden followed up on his good progress at Laguna by staying at the top of the leaderboard for the majority of the session while the track was wet, and when it dried he was still able to run impressive lap times. The incredibly tight pace of the field meant that even though he was only slightly over a half second behind the leader, he dropped down to eighth by the end of the session. Incidentally, that leader was Hayden's Ducati Marlboro teammate Casey Stoner, who was well inside the track record despite damp patches on the circuit.
"It is nice to be able to come to a track and not have to be trying something radical with the set-up on the first day," said Hayden, "and today we started out with pretty much the settings from Laguna, making a few changes as the session went on. Having said that we are trying a new handlebar here, which isn't normally the kind of thing you do at this stage of the season, but we have changed a lot on the back of the bike so we just needed to compensate a little at the front. Up to now we've been using data from Casey or previous riders to find a base set-up on a Friday but now hopefully we can work from my own data on a consistent basis. My final position today isn't too great but early in the session we were going really well, especially in the wet. We were on top for a long time and in this paddock if you're P1 in the wet, dry or intermediate you have to be riding well and be comfortable with the bike. I think I was third up until the last lap, and it is a thing we need to improve – when I try to really dig in we don't seem able to go faster and it's an area we still need to address in order to improve qualifying in particular. Anyway, here we've started very well so we'll see where we go from here."
Stoner was just as happy for Hayden's improved form as he was about the performance of the Desmosedici GP9. "It would have been better to have a full wet session because even from the first two laps the track was starting to dry and you don't get such good feedback. The bike seems to be working well, we had to change a few small things - like the seat, to make it a bit more comfortable - but generally over the last three races it has been great and I'm quite happy with it here. We're improving the GP9 step by step and I think you can see that by Nicky's recent results, which I'm really pleased about." The Australian was still bothered by the apparent "slight gastritis and mild anemia" he was diagnosed with just after the Laguna race. "Physically I feel the same as I did at this stage in the last few races so if it rains again tomorrow it would probably be beneficial to me because I'm sure it would leave me in better shape for the race and give us a much better chance of challenging for the win."
Meanwhile, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards gained some added confidence with a "new/old" chassis setup, and found some added speed courtesy of new electronics on his YZR-M1. "Looking at last year's race I knew the Bridgestone rain tire was awesome, so it gave me chance to sort some of the issues out I've had in the wet recently. Previously I've had too much weight on the rear but now we've got it more balanced and it felt really good. For the dry we went back to my old setting that I pretty much rolled out at the first race in Qatar with and it was like coming home. We'd gone off the right path and I've not had any feeling with the front in the last few races. The bike hasn't been turning but the changes we've made with the front forks have transformed the way I feel. Now the bike is doing what I want it to because before I couldn't get the front set-up, I couldn't get into the corner and I had too much weight on the front with no feeling and no confidence. Now there's more weight on the rear and I can control weight transfer more without it all pushing to the front. I tried some new electronics today too and they are fantastic. It used to be so much effort to manage the bike under acceleration, but now it is incredible. I want to say a massive thanks to Yamaha because what they have put on my bike is like gold dust. It's a lot less effort to control the bike when I'm accelerating and it is giving me some crucial tenths."
Repsol Honda rider Dani Pedrosa, winner of the Red Bull USGP at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, got the opportunity to try out a new spec engine for his RC212V, designed to improve the machine's driveabilty and enhance power delivery in the middle of the powerband. "I have to say that at the beginning in the wet I took it easy after what happened last year (he crashed out of the lead and sustained injuries that affected the rest of his season), but actually, when I saw the rain before the session I thought, OK, we can pick up from where we left off and change the outcome," said Pedrosa. "We rode with the new engine today although, because of these mixed conditions, it wasn't really possible to draw definite conclusions - but the feeling was positive. We need more laps to fully evaluate the engine, so we'll continue with that tomorrow."
Current World MotoGP Championship leader Valentino Rossi finished in third position at the end of practice, and was feeling confident. "This was quite a strange session because we had all sorts of track conditions and then at the end it was basically dry and I was quite fast," said the Doctor. "It was a good chance to work on the rain setting and I am pretty happy because the bike felt good and our times were also quick on the wet track. It seems we have a good setting immediately here for all conditions, because it continued to feel good as the track dried and the nature of the asphalt changed. We have some things to improve, especially the feeling and general balance in the faster parts of the track, so we will concentrate on this tomorrow. Right at the end we had a bit of traffic or we could have been faster, but anyway we're still third so I think we are in good shape. It seems Bridgestone have brought good tires for this track, of course there is no intermediate tire which is always going to be a bit difficult in these sorts of conditions, but I don't think it was a big problem today."
Rossi's teammate Jorge Lorenzo was still recovering from the injuries he suffered in a qualifying crash that still saw him qualify on pole, and finish a heroic third in the race at Mazda Raceway. "I am not at 100% and in fact my injuries don't feel as good as I had hoped on the bike, which is disappointing," confessed the Majorca native. "I have decided for the first time to use the leathers with the airbag and I want to say that I feel much more safe! This isn't the best track for me, the slow corners don't really suit my style and when I am not at full fitness it makes it more difficult, but today was okay considering the conditions. During the early part when it was wet I was reminding myself of the track, and then when it was dry later on I didn't really have enough time to go fast because we had some things to check on the setting. But there are 12 riders all very close together, within seven tenths of a second and I am not worried because it was a strange day and not one for making conclusions. The forecast tomorrow looks similar tomorrow but let's hope it is wrong!"
|SACHSENRING MOTOGP 1ST FREE PRACTICE RESULTS|
|1 Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro||1:22.779|
|2 Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||1:23.034|
|3 Valentino Rossi||Fiat Yamaha||1:23.088|
|4 Randy De Puniet||LCR Honda||1:23.133|
|5 Alex De Angelis||San Carlo Honda Gresini||1:23.282|
|6 Colin Edwards||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||1:23.295|
|7 Toni Elias||San Carlo Honda Gresini||1:23.351|
|8 Nicky Hayden||Ducati Marlboro||1:23.367|
|9 Andrea Dovisioso||Repsol Honda||1:23.370|
|10 Marco Melandri||Hayate/Kawasaki 1:23.466|
|11 Jorge Lorenzo||Fiat Yamaha||1:23.496|
|12 Loris Capirossi||Rizla Suzuki||1:23.705|
|13 Mika Kallio||Pramac Ducati||1:24.090|
|14 James Toseland||Monster Yamaha Tech 3||1:24.317|
|15 Niccolo Canepa||Pramac Ducati||1:24.908|
|16 Chris Vermeulen||Rizla Suzuki||1:25.161|
|17 Gabor Talmasci||Scot Racing Honda||1:25.416|