Rossi Fast, Spies Third

Cycle News Staff | March 18, 2010

 Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi continued his domination of pre-season testing on the first night of the final test of the year in Qatar, but it was Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Ben Spies who turned the most heads. The Texan ended the night with the third fastest time, and just behind Marlboro Ducati’s Casey Stoner, the only rider in the top four not on a Yamaha.The 17 MotoGP riders took to the floodlit desert circuit outside the Qatari capital of Doha at 6:00 p.m., with Rossi immediately to the top. Except for when he was off the track for a dinner break, and Stoner and Spies took advantage, Rossi dominated the day, and on his final run regained the top position on a track that isn’t his favorite.”I am so happy today because this isn’t one of our best tracks and to come here and be fastest shows what a great job Yamaha has done with this new M1,” the reigning world champion said. “To start with, the track was quite slippery, but anyway we were still fast, and as the track started to improve I felt better and better. We are quite competitive and this gives me a good feeling, and I was happy to make this quick lap right at the end. We still have to decide the right tire and the best setting for it, and we will keep working on the electronics but the most important thing is that we’re faster than last year! Tomorrow we will continue with our work and try to finalize everything before the race.”Rossi’s fast lap of 1:55.402 mins. was .315 sec. faster than Stoner’s best, with Spies only .237 sec. behind Stoner. Spies scored his first World Superbike double victory here last year, but this was his first outing under the desert lights.”I know this track from last year but riding under the floodlights is definitely a bit different and nothing I’ve experienced before,” he said. “The perception of speed is much faster with it being at night, but I’m having a lot of fun. It’s really well lit up, but there are a couple of darker spots on the track that you have to get used to, but I’ve not done too bad in adjusting to the lights. I know the track, but any track I go to on a MotoGP bike makes it definitely different because of the lines you take. Some of the lines I’d take on the Superbike just don’t work, but I felt like it was coming together good and following a couple of people it felt like I was doing more of the right things than I was in Malaysia. Obviously, it is great for me to be high up the timesheets, but I’m still taking baby steps to improve and not getting carried away.”Spies crashed in the second corner in the final hour, but that didn’t slow his progress.”The crash was nothing too serious. I was running the hard front and I wasn’t getting a good feeling from it. We changed the pressure to try and help for my second run but I just lost the front at the second corner. But to be third is fantastic for my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3. They have been giving me great support.”Spies’ Texas teammate Colin Edwards declared it a “good night” after finishing fourth fastest. “It didn’t start off too great and it took me a while to get into the groove. We played around with the set-up using some of the new parts I’d liked in Sepang and also running some of last year’s pieces to get some good information. The lap time was about the same, so around this track the new parts aren’t making the difference like they did in Malaysia. I did a long run on the hard front and I like it. I did race distance on it and it felt really good. I ended up doing 27-laps on it, which is five more than race distance, and it still felt really good.I’m getting the feedback I need at full lean angle and it holds the turn much better.”LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet was the first Honda, just .044 sec. behind Edwards and just in front of the factory Repsol Honda of Andrea Dovizioso.”I’m quite satisfied because I could lap consistently tonight – which gives us a good base for tomorrow, when the target for us will be to lap in the low 1m 56s,” Dovisioso said after a best lap of  1:56.811. “Today we changed my riding position a little bit and the feeling was very good. We also tested a different swingarm which allows us to use some different set-up options. Compared to the Sepang test I’m more satisfied with where we are and we could lap well in the first part of the session, although after 10pm the grip changed each time we went out on track. We didn’t reach our full potential today, so I think that tomorrow we can improve further.”Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo returned to the track in seventh place. Lorenzo missed the last test in Sepang after breaking his hand in a motocross accident and was riding cautiously today.”It’s really good to be back on my bike and, actually, when I went out on track the first time today my hand felt better than I had expected,” the Spaniard said. “The pain has decreased a lot in the last few days and I’ve been doing a lot of physio to make sure I’m in the best possible shape for this test.”I was able to do quite a lot of laps today and my time is not so bad in the end. It’s definitely interesting and important to be here and see our level after missing the last test. Dainese have made me a bigger glove and I have some protection on the hand; changing direction is okay, it’s just the hard braking areas where I have some problems. I need more practice, but I think we have made a good start.”Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden was only .017 sec. behind Lorenzo and less than a tenth up on Pramac Racing’s Mika Kallio (Duc) in ninth, the Finn debuting the new green and white Pramac livery. The hard-working Hayden turned in a class best 77 laps on the day.Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa struggled to the tenth fastest time on the opening day of the two-day test.”We made some progress today and moved forward from where we were at the last test in Malaysia – this is positive,” the Spaniard said, despite being 1.645 secs. off Rossi’s benchmark. “I’m confident that tomorrow we can take some further steps and get closer to the front, and we’ll be working hard to make sure that happens. Our issues are still with making the rear suspension work well for us and also with the bike feeling quite nervous under acceleration and going into the corners. So these are the areas we’ll be thinking about overnight and focusing on tomorrow. We’ve got one testing session to go so we’ll be looking to make the most of it.”Day One:1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:55.4022. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:55.7173. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:55.9544. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:56.5405. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 1:56.5886. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:56.8117. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:56.8388. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:56.8559. Mika Kallio (Ducati) 1:56.92310. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:57.04711. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:58.09912. Marco Melandri (Honda) 1:57.605

13. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:57.82214. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1:57.88615. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:57.89116. Aleix Espargaro (Ducati) 1:57.89617. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:57.960