Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team riders Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow declared themselves satisfied with early progress at the end of the opening practice session for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar tonight.
In windy conditions that were as unpredictable as those experienced during a two-night test earlier this week, experienced Edwards made big improvements to the set-up of his YZR-M1 machine to post the 10th fastest time at the floodlit Losail International Circuit.
The Texan was encouraged by his pace having concentrated exclusively on using the hard compound Bridgestone rear tyre, though he plans to make overnight changes to improving turning performance in the faster sections of the 5.38km track.
Highlighting just how competitive the 2011 MotoGP World Championship promises to be, Edwards' best time of 1.56.879 was less than half-a-second away from the top three.
Crutchlow produced a performance that demonstrated his incredible courage and determination as he finished just over 0.5s behind Edwards in 14th position. Crutchlow lost the tip of his left little finger when he crashed on the second night of testing on Monday evening and rode tonight in considerable discomfort.
The British rider had to use a modified clutch lever to ease the stress on his badly damaged finger and he clocked a best time of 1.57.429 in 17-laps. He too concentrated on fine-tuning the set-up of his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine to suit the harder compound Bridgestone tyre. But it was a late front-end change that boosted his confidence and helped him lap nearly 0.5s faster than he managed during the test earlier this week.
“I actually feel really good on the bike but unfortunately I am not quite fast enough at the moment. The number beside my name on the timesheets doesn't look that good but I'm actually better off than the charts suggest. I'm missing those crucial two or three tenths but I'm confident I can find it. We just need to get the bike to turn just a little bit better and I'm sure if we can work in that area, we'll find that time I'm losing. But I did my best lap on the hard tyre right at the end, so that gives me a lot of confidence with a couple more changes to the bike that I can be higher up. I think a lot of the guys in front of me ran the soft tyre, so the race set-up isn't that far away. I got with (Andrea) Dovizioso on the Honda and behind Valentino (Rossi) and our package is pretty strong, but the times tonight prove how competitive it is going to be this season.”
"That was not easy at all and being honest, the pain from the finger is really bad and it was tough to ride. The crash was only three days ago and when I took the bandage off tonight, I learned there's some nerve damage where the fingernail was. The pain when the bandage came off was something I can't describe, so considering how uncomfortable it is, I'm pretty pleased to be where I am and doing some decent times. I was having trouble using the clutch so I modified the lever, but I was still having some problems shifting, particularly at the first corner when I kept going down to first instead of second. That was costing me time but I couldn't do anything about it. We made a change to the front-end at the end of the session that we haven't tried since Sepang and it felt night and day different. I was much faster and felt much more comfortable because I felt like the front tyre was loaded more in the corner and I could turn better. I'm looking forward to working more with the new front-end set-up tomorrow because I believe we can make another step and hopefully the finger will be a little bit better too."
2011 MotoGP Qatar - Losail Circuit
1) Casey Stoner Honda AUS 1'55.752
2) Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1'56.362
3) Hector Barbera Ducati ESP 1'56.421
4) Marco Simoncelli Honda ITA 1'56.441
5) Valentino Rossi Ducati ITA 1'56.479
6) Ben Spies Yamaha USA 1'56.493
7) Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1'56.586
8) Andrea Dovizioso Honda ITA 1'56.592
9) Randy De Puniet Ducati FRA 1'56.790
10) Colin Edwards Yamaha USA 1'56.879
11) Nicky Hayden Ducati USA 1'56.910
12) Hiroshi Aoyama Honda JPN 1'56.987
13) Loris Capirossi Ducati ITA 1'57.366
14) Cal Crutchlow Yamaha GBR 1'57.429
15) Karel Abraham Ducati CZE 1'57.821