Pedrosa Fastest on Day 1 at Laguna Seca

Henny Ray Abrams | July 27, 2012

The top 10 riders in the afternoon MotoGP practice session were nearly identical to the top 10 in the morning, the only difference being a swap in positions between the Ducati Marlboro teammates on day one of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.

Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa was fast in the morning and again led the way in the afternoon, lapping the 2.243-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in 1:21.088 in the red flag-interrupted session. Pedrosa’s time was .336 of a second quicker than he’d gone in the morning and only .434 of a second faster than Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo, who only marginally improved his time. Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner was again third fastest.

The session was stopped for the third of three crashes, and the second in the same area. First to go down was San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alvaro Bautista, who crashed entering the Turn 3 right. Next down was Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Cal Crutchlow in a spectacular tumbling, bike-destroying crash in the fast Turn 10 right. Finally Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi went down, again in Turn 3, with his Desmosedici GP12 hitting the air fence hard enough to deflate it. The session, which was stopped with some 10 minutes remaining, was resumed just over 12 minutes later once the air bags were replaced.

Pedrosa was riding the all-new Repsol Honda RC213V, which he’d said in the morning was not much different than the previous model.

“Not many laps, but enough to get the first feeling again and enough to confirm like in the test,” he said, adding that he didn’t “know which is the bike for Sunday and I must keep working on the set-up of both bikes and see where I have more limitations. Maybe after this afternoon I can have it clearer the way I want to go on Sunday, but still it is early.

“It is a tricky track because it is so small and the bike is unstable always. Most important is to make the bike stable so you don’t physically lose all your energy after 10 or 15 laps. That’s what we are looking for this afternoon. The lap time was quite good already, but we have to see in the afternoon how is the asphalt with more sun and maybe more wind, but we must try the hard spec because the soft spec doesn’t seem like the race option.”

Lorenzo’s first impression was positive. The runner-up to Casey Stoner in 2011 said: “We have to keep adjusting a little bit some details, but all in all our base is quite competitive.” The Hondas were faster in T4, one of the faster sections on the track, “so we must work on that,” he said. “I guess it’s the less acceleration, with the wheelie in first gear maybe the Honda is a little more competitive. But I don’t think we lose so much.”

Stoner was happy with the track conditions for the first session, which is normally held on a much cooler, slipperier track.

“We have some stability issues with the bike, we need to get it turning better and reduce the front chatter, we had a lot of movement both on corner entry and exit,” he said after his morning third. “There a few things to work on, but generally okay, mainly losing out on one part of the track. This track is getting bumpier every year and with the front chatter we have a lot more here. We have to work on that.”

Stoner was using the new spec engine, though not the new bike, and he said there wasn’t much difference, other than it was “just a little smoother off the bottom. I’ve got one bike with the old and one with the new engine.”

Yamaha’s Ben Spies was fourth fastest, the only other rider to keep pace with the top three in the championship. Spies was only .251 of a second slower than Stoner.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3 teammates Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow were fifth and sixth, as they’d been in the morning. Then came Hayden, seventh in the afternoon after a disappointing ninth in the morning. Teammate Rossi went in the other direction, dropping from seventh to ninth. In between was LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl, who was riding a MotoGP bike at the track for the first time.

A day after saying his bike was a “piece of s—,” NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards was 13th and third fastest CRT.

The final CRT, the final motorcycle, was the Kawasaki-powered Attack Performance machine of Steve Rapp. Rapp had never ridden the bike until the morning session, which he spent working out the kinks. In the afternoon he was able to push a little harder and improved his time by 1.7 seconds. Still, making the qualifying mark of 107 percent of the fastest rider isn’t a certainty.

MotoGP Practice:

1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:21.088

2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:21.422

3. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:21.457

4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:21.708

5. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:22.021

6. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:22.258

7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:22.434

8. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:22.568

9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:22.772

10. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:22.853

13. Colin Edwards (Suter BMW) 1:24.732

22. Steve Rapp (APR Kawasaki) 1:28.016

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.