PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA, OCT 14 –
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner dominated the first day of practice for his home grand prix at Phillip Island by setting the fastest time in both the morning and the afternoon on a track that was universally panned as being too bumpy.Having won the past Australian GPs at Phillip Island, and having led all but one lap in that stretch, Stoner is the prohibitive favorite. He did nothing to damage that belief by dominating both sessions and finishing with a time that only three riders could come within a second of.Friday’s conditions were ideal, sunny and 70 degrees, with a track temperature of 111F. (A year ago the track and ambient temperatures were both 50F.) Stoner’s best lap of the majestic circuit overlooking the Bass Strait was his morning mark of 1:30.475 mins., a time that he missed by .060 sec. in the afternoon.
“I just think it was weather conditions,” he said of the afternoon times. “Nobody really went quicker this afternoon than they did this morning. So, you know, I think it’s tire degradation. The conditions were a little bit warmer this afternoon than they were this morning and that just, with a little bit more wind and a little bit more to sort of deal with on the track, yeah, it was just more difficult to get the times, so we’ll see what happens tomorrow when we should be a little bit colder conditions, but we’ll see what the weather does and hopefully progress from there.”The three closest riders were Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli, and Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards. Like Stoner, both Lorenzo and Edwards were faster in the morning. In the afternoon Lorenzo was third and Edwards ninth. Simoncelli had his own problems. The Italian twice crashed in MG Corner, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. The corner is one of the slower ones on the track and his low-sides only damaged his ego and a little right side bodywork.
“I’m surprised only myself, Marco (Simoncelli) and Jorge (Martinez) are really fast enough,” Stoner said. “Everybody else seems to be struggling a little bit more than us. We’ll see what happens tomorrow. It’s going to be a different day, probably different conditions and things might change a little bit. As long as we keep focusing on ourselves and trying to improve the situation, yeah, we should be able to stay towards the front.”Stoner has always spoken his mind about race tracks and he didn’t hold back for his home circuit. Given what the rest of the riders said, it would have been difficult to equivocate.”This year the track’s terrible, to be honest,” he said. “It’s always been a little bit bumpy into turn one and maybe one or two other small bumps, but this year there are a lot more aggressive than they were in the past. I’m not too happy with the condition of the track. I don’t know what they’ve been racing around here, but it’s made the track a lot worse, a lot worse.”The last corner I lost the front in there this morning. Also turn six, there’s a lot more bumps. Lukey Heights used to be quite smooth; there’s now a bump there. It’s almost like they’ve been driving Formula One around here. It seems to be…really close to the curb we’re OK, so it’s definitely cars that have done it, but one or two meters out from the curb seems to be really, really bumpy. You can’t go into the corner, go wide, and come back in for the exit, because you go out there and you hit the bumps and you lose a lot of time. So it’s a little bit tricky to ride at the moment and we’ll have to see when they’re planning on re-surfacing, but, yeah, it’s definitely getting bumpy. For such a fast track, it’s a little scary.”Behind the top four came Yamaha’s Ben Spies, the Texan who moved from eighth in the morning to fifth in the afternoon, and just outside the one second cushion enjoyed by Stoner.In his first race since announcing his move to the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team, Andrea Dovizioso rode the Repsol Honda RC212V to the sixth fastest time, slightly faster than teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was expected to put in a stronger showing after winning the previous race in Motegi.The third Honda in a row was San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Hiroshi Aoyama, whose afternoon time landed him in eight, just faster than Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro), who ended up ninth fastest on the strength of his morning time. Teammate Valentino Rossi down was a disconsolate 13th.MotoGP Combined Friday Practice Times:1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:30.475
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:30.744
3. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:30.912
4. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:31.480
5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:31.495
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:31.532
7. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:31.543
8. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1:31.582
9. Nicky Hayden (Ducati )1:31.662
10. Randy De Puniet (Ducati) 1:31.670
13. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:32.014