PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA, OCT 14 –

 Yamaha's Ben Spies finished just over a second down on Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner on the first day of practice for the Australian Grand Prix, and knowing he wasn't going to get much closer.Stoner's lap of 1:30.475 mins. around his home Phillip Island Circuit, set in the morning practice, was .269 sec. faster than the best of Spies' teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who also didn't improve in the afternoon, and .437 in front of San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli, the Italian who fell twice in the same corner, once in the morning and once in the afternoon. Then came Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards, also faster in the morning, then ninth in the afternoon.Spies said the team started off in the morning with two different set-ups and "honestly, didn't care for both of them.

" In the afternoon there was a third set-up "that we kinda knew works decent and then we had kind of another set-up that we just kinda put together to see and we went out on the new bike and wasn't so good. Went back to what we know. Was better, but then we tried a completely different suspension set-up. Same suspension, just different internals and stuff, because the place is so bumpy right now."The worst corner was turn 12, the long, tire-abusing left leading onto the Phillip Island front straight. The bumps were so bad that everyone had to alter their lines, and still feared crashing."It's bad," Spies said. "I mean, and the last corner, if you get basically two meters off line or if you get on the line you want to be on and you're at race speed, you're probably going to crash. It's just, they're bad. So you have to take a lot more of an inside line, which is going to generate more heat on the tire because you're at more of a lean angle for a lot longer of a period of time, and then you have to start trying to drive out of the corner. So the spinning's a lot more. It's harder on the tire, it's harder on the rider to control all that. But if you go around the corner, around the bumps, people are just going to go up the inside of you right and left. So you can't do that. And if you try to go over the bumps to make a fast lap you're going to run out of talent pretty quick and crash. So there's nothing you can really do about it. So you've got to ride around the objects, but that's the way it is, so we're dealing with what we can."After a fourth set-up, Spies said the team was at "75-80%. There's a lot of corners that I dread getting to every lap, because it's working that bad. But I do feel that there's a lot of room to improve. Maybe not room to get to Casey (Stoner) improve, but to definitely knock off another half second and run a lot more comfortably. I know it's in there, we just hopefully can do it."It's going to be hard if it rains tomorrow. If the weather's crap Sunday; you never know. But we got a lot of data, we did as much as we could and we tried four different motorcycles. I did as much as, like I said, I could on feedback. We think we know what we can do, but now we just need another good solid 45 minutes, really before qualifying. Or if it's worse case scenario we can do it in qualifying before the race. And I think we have something competitive here, you know, for sure, to fight top five and fight for the podium. Right now the race win with Casey here, he's so fast, it's going to be difficult, but maybe we can get up there and fight for it, but we started off, like I said, this morning was really bad, but we had a positive step this afternoon and I think we can make it even better tomorrow."Spies again showed up near the bottom of the speed charts, 13th out of 17, and about 4 mph down to Stoner."I mean, this is like what the 15th or 16th round of the season. I've gotten way used to it," he said with a laugh. "It's not too much. We've seen 15 k difference at Mugello and France and places like that. So here, honestly, a 4 k, 5 k of a difference with the last corner, if you come out on the tail, you can stay in the draft or actually cruise up and make some ground. So that's actually a good number for us. even though we're at the further back of it, it's a lot closer to the front, as in the size of the gap, so it's not so bad."



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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.

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