Jorge Lorenzo Fast in Friday MotoGP Practice in Valencia

Henny Ray Abrams | November 5, 2010

Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo used his final lap of the Ricardo Tormo Circuit to set the fastest time in Friday’s combined practice sessions for the season-finale in Valencia, Spain.The newly crowned world champion lapped the circuit in 1:32.690 mins., easily his fastest lap of the weekend. The lap displaced Casey Stoner (Ducati Marlboro) from the top spot, a spot he’d held from the morning and well into the afternoon.”Today was a good day,” Lorenzo said. “We started strongly from the first moment and I am feeling so confident, plus my bike is working very well here. We need to continue like this tomorrow and make a few small steps forward with our setting.”I am so happy to be riding at home again, in front of the Spanish fans here at Cheste as the World Champion. I hope we are strong again tomorrow where I have a very special helmet to show everyone!”Stoner was the only rider not to improve on his morning time. The Australian, who moves to Honda in 2011, finished the day with the second fastest time, a 1:32.897 from the morning. Stoner’s best on Friday afternoon was 1:33.004. He finished the session .314 secs. behind Lorenzo, though he was only .207 slower when his morning time was factored in.”Not too bad a day today,” Stoner said. “We had some problems over the two sessions with a small vibration in one of the bikes and we lost some time trying to work out what it was. We changed to the other one and we started to improve the setting a little bit but we hadn’t really got enough time or laps to really improve it. I needed basically one more run to be happy with what we have but in general we feel quite good. We have had two sessions with very good weather so no problems. We just need to wait and see what the weather does tomorrow but if we can improve the situation of my preferred bike we would be happy.”Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards finished the day with the third fastest time, a lap of 1:33.466 that was .462 secs. slower than Stoner. His teammate Ben Spies was sixth fastest and only .062 behind Lorenzo. Spies had damaged ligaments in his left ankle in a sighting lap crash for last Sunday’s Portuguese Grand Prix, but it didn’t keep him out of this race.”I’m really happy to have made such a good start,” Edwards said. “I was only 11th this morning but knew my guys had a handle on how to improve the bike and this afternoon it just felt so easy. All the problems I’ve had all year with the bike not turning and running wide disappeared. I could get into the corner hard on the brakes, carry lots of lean angle, open the throttle and the bike would just turn like it should do. It’s all too little too late but I didn’t feel like I was out there taking a lot of risks and I was nearly six-tenths faster this afternoon. Every lap I did was between 33.4 and 33.6 and that’s consistently over half-a-second faster than what I was able to do here last year. I kept the same hard tire for the whole session and just switched it between the bikes and my best  time was on the 20th lap, so I’m really happy with the tire performance too and think I could be in for a really strong weekend to finish the season.”Spies had a small crash in the morning, but it didn’t aggravate his tender left ankle. “I’m happy with the way today ended because I’m sixth but really close to Colin in third,” Spies said.  “I felt good this morning before I crashed. I was on the soft front tire and it is the one I don’t like so much. I was happy to make it through the whole session on it but I got a bit too greedy and lost the front going into the second corner. I knew if I’d have swallowed some pride and slowed down or come in for the hard tire it wouldn’t have happened. At least I didn’t aggravate the ankle, which is getting better as each day passes. Earlier this week it was really painful and I’m having a couple of issues back-shifting gears. But it is not going to be a problem for the race. I’m having lots of physio and when I’m not on the bike I’m using an ice pack a lot. But after the crash in Estoril and what happened this morning, I needed to have a good session this afternoon just to build up some confidence and that’s what I managed. I”‘m really happy too because my fastest lap was on the 25th lap on the hard rear tire option, so we’ve obviously got a good race setting already. Every change we made to the bike made it a bit better, so with a few more tweaks overnight we should be looking even stronger.”Between the Texas teammates was a pair of Hondas, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli in fourth and Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda). Both Italians have been on late season rolls. Dovizioso has been on the podium in three of the last four races, with Simoncelli fighting Dovi for the final podium spot in Estoril before having to settle for fourth.Randy de Puniet started his final weekend with the LCR Honda team with the seventh fastest time that was .007 sec. behind Spies. The Frenchman, who’s been replaced at LCR by Moto2 world champion Toni Elias, is widely expected to be taking the second seat at Pramac Racing Ducati.Marco Melandri began his final weekend in MotoGP with the eighth fastest time. Melandri will move to the Yamaha World Superbike team in 2011. The Italian, who will be reunited with his crew chief from Hayate Racing Kawasaki, Andrea Dosoli, will test the Yamaha YZR-M1, along with teammate Eugene Laverty, at Valencia on Thursday at Valencia following the Moto2 and MotoGP tests. Moto2 tests on Monday and MotoGP on Tuesday and Wednesday.Valentino Rossi was a downfield ninth at the start of his final weekend with the Fiat Yamaha team. Rossi, who will be moving to the Ducati Marlboro team in 2011, only improved his time by .35 secs. from the morning to the afternoon.”This morning was not so bad but the afternoon was not great,” Rossi said. “We weren’t able to improve the setting from the morning and we had a few problems; we have some work to do because at the moment we don’t have enough grip and the bike is difficult to ride. The times are quite close but we are in still ninth so we need to find a way to improve tomorrow. We will have a look at the data and see what we can come up with tomorrow because for sure we need to improve the grip if we are going to be competitive this weekend.”It’s a very important weekend, the last for me with Yamaha, so of course we want to try to be at the maximum.”His future teammate at Ducati Marlboro, Nicky Hayden, slipped from sixth in the morning to ninth in the afternoon. Hayden’s final lap of 1:33.684 mins. was his fastest.”Obviously today was not how we hoped to start the last race of the season,” Hayden said. “We started this morning quite good I was fastest in the first minutes of the session I think and then third, second… at least near the front but then it was very difficult to really improve from there. I think did a low 34 in my first run but I didn’t find a lot of time since then so we have to try and understand why.”Anyway, to be honest the position is not good for sure but we are not so far away in the lap times apart from the first two so we will see what we can do tomorrow to improve. It was nice having two full sessions today. We will regroup tomorrow and try to improve. I love this track, I love this race so it’s a long way from over. We’ll keep pushing.”

Friday Practice Times:

1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:32.690

2. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:32.897

3. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:33.466

4. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:33.468

5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:33.470

6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:33.528

7. Randy De Puniet (Honda) 1:33.535

8. Marco Melandri (Honda) 1:33.568

9. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:33.661

10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:33.684

11. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:33.782

12. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:33.927

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.