"It was a beautiful day today because we made some modifications to the bike that has given me a better feeling," Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi said this afternoon after setting the fast time for Sunday's Catalunya Grand Prix. "I made some comparisons and I had better feeling with the bike from the beginning. I am happy because it was a great work today and I am in front from the beginning and already the lap time is not so bad. The difference is I have more fun now to ride the bike and I feel more confident and this is the most important thing. I can improve my pace and my lap time for tomorrow but we have started from a good base, so I'm happy about today.'Rossi had complained on Thursday about a lack of frontend feel, a problem he's been dealing with all season and one which hampered him in the previous race at Mugello, a track which shares many of the same characteristics as Montmelo. But among the differences is corner shape. Montmelo has a number of long, sweeping corners where riders have to hold their lines and front end feel is paramount. "After Mugello we spoke a lot, because during this year I've never had a 100 percent good feeling with the front like last year," Rossi said. "I never feel confident or at the maximum with the front and we tried to improve by changing the balance of the bike with the weight distribution. It looks today that I'm a lot better and not just because I am in front, but specially because I feel confident with the bike. From this base it's possible to start on normal work with the balance of the bike and working with tires and suspension to arrive on Sunday ready for the race."Rossi wasn't the only Yamaha rider struggling with front-end issues. Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards described similar travails. "Until this moment only Jorge [Lorenzo] is very fast and confident with this bike," Rossi said. "But for me and Colin [Edwards], we've had exactly the same problem with not enough feeling on the front. For James [Toseland] it is the same even if he has some other problems also. Usually me and Colin, in all our history together at Yamaha, more or less always we've had the same problems. So when I spoke with Colin and I learned that for him the feeling from the front is the same, I'm more sure that we have some problem. For me it's more the difference of the 2009 bike more than the new tires. Also the tires makes some small difference but it's more the balance of our bike that is different this year."That can be partly traced to the shorter wheelbase, which sacrifices front-end feel, Rossi said. "It seems this way, yes," he said. "With Bridgestone you have to turn the bike a lot more on the rear compared to Michelin but maybe too much. The front of Bridgestone is usually impressive, so you can work more to improve the rear. But it is very strange in Qatar when I finished the front tire. That was a tire that last year I could make 100 laps on without any problem and it would be quite new, so there is something wrong with the setting."The predominantly right-handed Montmelo circuit is the first of five tracks where Bridgestone is supplying dual compound tires. The left shoulder is soft and the center and right side are either hard or extra hard. With track temperatures today hitting 120 F, the decision on race tire choice was critical. "I think we need to understand the temperature, because it if it's like today then it will be the very hard tire," Rossi said of his race choice. "But the very hard tire is very hard, so we need this kind of temperature again. If it is seven or eight degrees [Celsius] less we have to consider which tires to use for the race."Rossi continued. "The left side is always a big issue in this track because you need to go with a soft rubber because there are only three corners but it's so important Turn 9 for the traction. Today I made a short run and the soft is okay, but I think it will become the big issue for the race. For sure in the last ten laps everybody will be in trouble with the left side because it is quite soft and we have just one rubber. It will be important to have a good setting and good electronics to not lose too much on the left."

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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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