MONTEREY, CA, JULY 18: Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi wasn’t discouraged after finishing a distant second in the first practice session for Sunday’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. The seven-time world champion nearly equalled his fastest lap around Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, a lap of 1:22.769 minutes that was .274 seconds from front-running Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro). The hourlong session began under a cool overcast before giving way to slightly warmer sunshine. Once the track heated up, so did the riders, with the lap times falling consistently to the finish. “Is a good first practice for us,” Rossi said. “I make a good lap time and I think that we have the potential for make a bit better, because on the good lap I take (Dani) Pedrosa and I lose a bit. “I’m happy because, anyway, second place is a good place for the start and is important. For sure we have to work, especially compared to (Casey) Stoner that is a bit faster than us. We have some parts of the track that we are very close, but in some other parts we take too much disadvantage. We have some problem on the bike to fix with the suspension and with the electronics. So we have to work, but is a good point for start, especially because the tires work very well. So we have to improve the setting a bit and try to be closer to Stoner.” Rossi pinpointed his problems to the last section of the 2.24-mile, 11-turn track. “Yes, especially in T-4 we take a lot,” he said of the track where he’s never finished better than third. “Is the downhill after the Corkscrew, because in the Corkscrew I’m quite fast. But after the left-right and the last hairpin I have some problems for turn and some problems to take the apex. And the exit from the last corner I have a bit too much wheelie, so we have to try to, with the electronics, to less wheelie. So able to open the throttle more easier.” Rossi said that for the first 20 minutes the track was quite cold, but that by the end it was much better, and “with more temperature the bike is more easy and more easy to control and understand compared to this morning, so is also less dangerous.” The track is not one of Rossi’s favorites, he said in Thursday’s pre-race press conference, but the tarmac was in better shape than in years past. “The track is good, it’s not bad,” he said. “It’s better than last year for me. It’s like the surface have a better grip. Have two or three points where we have some bumps, but is positive. Is good.”
Rossi Second in First Practice
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.