The return of MotoGP racing is just a few days away in Qatar right now, and Casey Stoner has proven himself the man to beat. Stoner was fast from the moment he rolled out onto the track, setting the 1’57 mark within 10 minutes of the free practice, a time he would reduce by a further 0.8 seconds towards the end of the session. Only two other men were able to break in’ the :57′s, Valentino Rossi and Colin Edwards. It took Rossi quite some time to catch the Australian, but he was eventually able to close the gap to Stoner by 0.4 seconds. Colin Edwards, the third fastest man in the opening session of the 2009 season finished 0.7 seconds off of Stoner. Outside of that group, Jorge Lorenzo made it 3 Yamaha’s in the top 4, but was still 1.2 seconds behind the time to beat.
Colin Edwards showed that he was back in form, and more than capable of being a contender in Sunday’s race. Edwards qualified on the front row for last year’s Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, which was one of his best Saturday performances of the 2008 season. Colin has had problems turning good qualifying and practice sessions into actual race day results, so hopefully this will not hold true this weekend as well. Commenting on what it took to put the American in the top three for the free practice, Edwards commented:
“We’ve changed the bike up a little bit, and the engineers have done something a little bit different with the front to solve some problems. We’ve been having problems, especially at Jerez, with the bike bumping and acting like a speed limiter. Now we’ve moved that on a bit after trying something out. Jerez was a bit special, and we thought that what was needed there could be used here and work well. We’ve got all the pieces, but we’ve just got to put them together.”
Overall, the field’s times were slower than last years, nearing a couple of seconds off Stoner’s lap record from the 2008 season, and 1.5 seconds slower than the times set at Qatar during testing in early March. Air and track temperatures were favorable, so we suspect teams are still testing out different setups before honing in on Saturday.
Results from the Qatar MotoGP Free Practice 1:
|5||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1’58.452||1.399||0.180|
|10||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1’58.771||1.718||0.014|