Team Talk

Paul Carruthers | June 26, 2008
The following is from Repsol Honda…

Repsol Honda riders Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa made a solid start to this week’s Dutch TT at Assen today, placing fourth and ninth fastest after the first two practice sessions.

In sunny but blustery conditions Hayden and Pedrosa were second and third fastest this morning. Both riders improved their times this afternoon, though Pedrosa dropped several places while trying out different settings. Hayden is using the pneumatic-valve RCV engine for the second time this weekend while Pedrosa sticks with the conventional spring-valve engine.

This year’s Dutch TT is a particularly historic event. Assen is the only MotoGP track surviving from the World Championship’s inaugural year in 1949, making this the 60th consecutive World Championship event at the Dutch venue.

Nicky Hayden, 4th fastest, 1m 37.012s

“It’s nice to finally see a little bit of summer weather starting to hit Europe. The track is in great condition, they did a great job of having it clean, so we were able to get up to speed a lot faster than last year. All in all it’s been a pretty solid day. We made a little bit of an improvement this afternoon. I wasn’t able to improve my best time by much but I was able to be a lot more consistent out there. I was hoping to go a little quicker at the end which didn’t happen. The bike’s working pretty well here but we’re certainly going to have to step it up a bit to get in there and be really competitive. We’ve got a few ideas to try and make it a little bit better tomorrow, the rider too.”

Dani Pedrosa, 9th fastest, 1m 37.280s

“During the afternoon session we tried a different settings solution for the chassis in an effort to improve my feeling thorough all the changes of directions here, but it didn’t give the results we had expected, so I couldn’t be fast as I wanted this afternoon. We also tested some tyres, looking for the best solution for Saturday. But the big question mark is once again the weather; we can’t be sure about what the weather will do tomorrow but it looks like it may be wet so we tried to get as much work as possible done during the course of today’s two sessions. Tomorrow, weather permitting, we will keep on working on the set-up to improve our race pace.”

Kazuhiko Yamano – Team Manager

“We started off with normal settings today and both riders have been making small steps forward throughout both sessions. It seems like maybe we will have some rain here tomorrow, so we hope we can have some more track time so that our riders can keeping working on set-up and tyre choice towards Saturday’s race.”

The following is from Yamaha…

Fiat Yamaha Team rider Valentino Rossi returned to one of his favourite race tracks today, as the 60th Dutch TT got started in bright sunshine at Assen. Rossi won the race from 11th on the grid last year, arguably his best performance of 2007, and the Italian is keen to emulate his success with another win on Saturday. He started well today by finishing the first day of free practice in second place, although he was 0.732 seconds off Casey Stoner and will be looking to improve on this tomorrow.

This morning saw Rossi in sixth position but some set-up alterations for the afternoon session brought about a good improvement in his lap times and the Italian was one of only three riders to lap under the 1’37 mark, the others being Stoner and Tech 3 Yamaha rider Colin Edwards. Rossi lapped consistently in the high 1’36s, already well under the circuit rec ord, but he will be aiming to shave a few more tenths off tomorrow in order to narrow the gap to Stoner. Rossi’s team-mate Jorge Lorenzo meanwhile finished the day 14th in the combined standings after a difficult day in which he struggled for front-end feeling.

Valentino Rossi

Position: 2nd Time: 1’36.819 Laps: 56

“Second place this afternoon is not bad at all, considering that this morning we had some problems. This afternoon we made some modifications and we started to improve quite a bit. We are still struggling in some points of the track however and this shows in the gap that we still have to Stoner. During this afternoon’s session we understood some interesting things, which we hope will help us tomorrow. Today, however, it seems like I am the leader of the ‘other’ championship!

Despite an impressive ride through the field to sixth from the back of the grid at Donington just four days ago, it seems that Jorge Lorenzo’s recent trials are not completely behind him and the Fiat Yamaha Team rookie underwent a difficult opening day at the Dutch TT. The Spaniard is struggling with front-end feeling but worst of all is lacking confidence and trust in his bike, and could only manage 14th in the combined standings today.

Lorenzo started off the day 11th in morning practice and hoped to improve further this afternoon. However this was not to be as he was only able to better his morning time by 0.027 seconds and slipped back through the order. With this being one of his favourite tracks he is doubly frustrated and is now hoping that a good night’s sleep can result in a clearer head and a more relaxed frame of mind tomorrow. His team- mate Valentino Rossi fared better today and finished second but a gap of 0.732 seconds to Casey Stoner, in first place, means that he too has work to do tomorrow.

Jorge Lorenzo

Position: 14th Time: 1’37.960 Laps: 54

“It was a bad session today and I was not expecting to be so slow here, at a track that I love. We need to do more laps in order to improve and try to find a way to change things; I am suffering a lot on the bike because I don’t have enough confidence in the front. I am losing time in all areas, we know the bike can be faster but I can’t find the way to ride it like this. I need to have more trust in the bike, but at the moment I think the problem is me and I am just not riding as I should be.”

The following is from Suzuki…

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP had a day of mixed fortunes at Assen in the Netherlands today as Chris Vermeulen showed promising signs for the weekend ahead, whilst Loris Capirossi crashed at high-speed, resulting in a visit to the medical centre for an operation to his right forearm.

Vermeulen (P10, 1’37.282, 54 laps) lost a bit of time in the morning as his mechanics worked hard on getting the best engine set-up for the 4,555m long Assen circuit. Their dedication paid dividends as he improved on every run throughout the day eventually clocking a fastest time at the end of the second session – on worn race tyres – that was only 0.463 seconds away from second place.

Capirossi (P15, 1’38.082, 33 laps) was making his comeback at Assen following a collision at Catalunya earlier this month, and vindicated his decision to participate this weekend by setting the 12th quickest time in this morning’s practice. Unfortunately, in this afternoon’s session he crashed in a fast left-hand corner and high-sided his Suzuki GSV-R. As the bike and Capirossi tumbled towards the gravel at high-speed, his right inner forearm got stuck underneath the bike resulting in a substantial and deep hole. Capirossi was immediately taken to the medical centre and operated on to repair the wound. He will now rest the injury and will not take any further part at this weekend’s event. AMA Champion Ben Spies – who is present at Assen – will not replace Capirossi. Today’s practice was held in warm and sunny conditions with track temperatures reaching 32ºC. Fastest time of the day went to World Champion Casey Stoner on his factory Ducati.

Rizla Suzuki MotoGP has one more practice session on Friday morning, followed by the qualifying in the afternoon. Saturday’s race is round nine of the MotoGP World Championship and the 26-lap event gets underway at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).

Chris Vermeulen:

“It’s been not too bad on the whole today. We had a bit of a problem this morning with some engine settings on the bike and it made it quite difficult to ride. The technicians worked hard to correct it and they even got some information from the factory in Japan to help us and together we were able to overcome the problem. The bike worked a lot better this afternoon, but because I missed a lot of this morning’s session with trying to get the set-up right it left us with a lot of work to do this afternoon. We managed to get inside the top-10 and I am sure there is even more to come tomorrow.

Loris Capirossi:

“After this morning’s practice I was quite happy, because my hand was working well and there was no pain. I felt that I was riding quite well and settling back into things. In the afternoon I came in and put on a new tyre and the first lap out it felt quite good, but when I changed down from sixth to fourth gear and leaned on the left side I lost control and the bike jumped me out of the seat. The problem was that when I crashed the bike came on top of me and I get this hole in my arm. It was not easy when that happened, but I know I have great support all around me from many people. I will now work to get myself 100% right and jump back on the bike as soon as possible!”

Paul Denning – Team Manager:

“When things are difficult it often seems to be the case that it gets more difficult before it becomes easier again! Loris knew it wouldn’t be easy to come back after 17 days since he broke his hand, but he immediately justified his decision to be here by being able to ride at a decent speed, to supply good feedback and know where we were heading over the weekend. I think it is necessary to make it clear that the crash was nothing to do with his recent hand injury and it was just one of those things that happens in racing. He was lucky that he didn’t break anything or cause more damage to the original injury, because it is a really fast place to crash. Unfortunately the bike got on top of him and ripped a sizeable piece of flesh from his right forearm. Dr Costa and his team performed an operation to close and stabilise the wound and Loris will now start his recuperation to get himself fit again – for sure it will be Sachsenring in two weeks time!

“On a brighter note, despite some problems this morning, Chris has been able to complete the day’s evaluation work, and on tyres that were past their best he was able put in his fastest time at the end of session two. That put him only a few tenths off of a top three position. Apart from Casey Stoner all the riders are really close at the moment and we feel confident that Chris and the GSV-R have got quite a lot to give over the rest of the weekend!”

The following is from Kawasaki…

Kawasaki’s John Hopkins completed the opening practice day at the Assen circuit in a confident mood, having made further improvements to his Ninja ZX-RR and finishing in eighth place overall.

Hopkins was pleased to be challenging for top positions after finding a good machine setting. With only half a second separating second and 12th position on the timesheet, competition is already fierce on the opening day of the Dutch TT.

Hopkins is running an upgraded version of Kawasaki’s Ninja ZX-RR engine this weekend and this, together with improvements in set-up over the last two races, means that Hopkins is confident of improving further his position ahead of the race.

The Anglo-American, who is slowly recovering from a back injury, spent the sessions today dialling in the new specification parts while running through many Bridgestone tyre options to identify the best race tyre option. The 25-year-old is looking forward to tomorrow when he will refine his machine set-up, as well as check the longevity of his chosen tyre with a race simulation. Teammate West, who was feeling buoyant after a top ten finish last time out, has suffered with some difficulties around the 4.555km Circuit van Drenthe, finishing today’s practice in 15th position. The 26-year-old Australian used the base setting he found at the British Grand Prix, but is struggling with chatter and a lack of exit grip at this complex track, which features many long, negative-camber turns.

West will work closely with his crew to make some alterations to the set-up of his Ninja ZX-RR overnight and they hope to resolve the issues that have thwarted the Kawasaki pilot’s progress today.

John Hopkins: #21 – 8th – 1’37.251

“It’s been a good start for us today. We have had some new specification engine parts to test and these have definitely shown an improvement. We’re running pretty much the same set-up as last time out and the Kawasaki seems to be getting around here really well. This afternoon we ran through every tyre we had allocated to us to make a decision for the race, because we are unsure of what the weather might do during tomorrow. The last tyre we tried worked really well and we’d like more dry time to do a long run to test it for durability. The competition is close and apart from Casey (Stoner), who is a long way ahead, we’re running the same times as everyone else so I’m pretty happy with that. The injury is starting to feel better now and I’m really feeling confident ahead of qualifying tomorrow.”

Anthony West: #13 – 15th – 1’38.413

“I’m a bit frustrated to be honest. I came here thinking that our set-up from Donington Park would be a good starting point for this circuit, but that’s not been the case today. We’ve had some problems with chatter that we haven’t had before, and we’re struggling a little bit with drive out of the turns. But, my crew already have some ideas on how we can improve things tonight, which we’ll check out during practice tomorrow morning. It looks like we’ve got a bit of a fight on our hands this weekend, but that’s all part of the job. I really like the Assen circuit, so I hope we can get things sorted ready for qualifying tomorrow.”

Paul Carruthers | Editor

Paul Carruthers took over as the editor of Cycle News in 1993 after serving as associate editor since starting his career at the publication in 1985. Carruthers has covered every facet of the sport in his near-28-year tenure at America’s Daily Motorcycle News Source.