Friday, October 15

LORENZO & STONER GO AT IT!

Lorenzo gets down to it in treacherous conditions at Phillip Island while Colin Edwards has a 'moment' over the top of Lukey Heights. (Photo: Peter Geran).

By MICHAEL ESDAILE

WITHIN just just a few laps of the wet weather delayed first practice session at Phillip Island, Australian Casey Stoner put the Marlboro Ducati at the top of the time sheets, then pulled in and watched the monitors while his mechanics made adjustments to the bike, adding half a litre of oil at the same time.

While he was sitting watching the monitors, Jorge Lorenzo then started cranking out the fast times, getting down from just under 1m 50s to 1:41 with ten minutes to go.

Stoner was then back in action on the Ducati, just a few tenths of a second slower than Lorenzo's Yamaha, with Nicky Hayden next, a couple of tenths slower. The only other rider also in the 1m 41s was last year's 250 World Champion Marco Simoncelli on the San Carlo Gresini Honda.

While the cold wind started drying the racing surface, the riders were still on wet weather tyres with nine minutes remaining.

Lorenzo set his fast time - 1m 41.146s - on his twelfth of 20 laps when the track was much wetter, but when his Bridgestone wets were in good condition. By the time he pitted, his rear tyre was shredded.

“Today was the first day on the bike after we won the title and I am still very happy,” said Lorenzo as he warmed up after getting off the bike. “We can’t stop now. We have to keep going and finish this season in the best way possible, working for the future. The conditions today were really hard – wet, cold and windy. I am very happy to be fast in the rain because it didn’t used to be this way. But we need to be prepared because it could be a hard weekend. I would like to ride in the dry but we will have to wait and see what happens.”

“Those were nasty conditions. I mean nasty!” Nicky Hayden said afterward. “It wasn’t so much the wet but the wind. It was blowing really strong and it took a little while to get comfortable with being blown around so much. Other than that, the bike worked well in the wet. We made a little bit of a change to help it turn and I was able to go okay. Obviously it would be all for nothing if the forecast is right and the conditions are dry from here on but at this track you have to be prepared for anything and take advantage of every situation.”



Spray flies from the rear tyre of Stoner's Ducati in the wet first practice at Phillip Island. (Photo: Peter Geran).

For his part, Casey Stoner agreed conditions were difficult and did not give the “ideal way to prepare.”

“We would prefer a fully wet session but it started to dry towards the end and that denied us the opportunity to confirm the settings or get a full understanding of the conditions.”

Finally, veteran Valentino Rossi said the weather “was at the limit of what you can race motorcycles in.”

He added that “it is even more amazing because yesterday was beautiful. I hope it will be better tomorrow but it doesn’t look too hopeful. My setting here in the wet was okay and I feel quite happy on the bike but I didn’t want to push it too hard in these conditions. I think we can improve it more but we need to see how the weather is tomorrow. We hope for sun!”

Andrea Dovizioso was sixth fastest on the Repsol Honda. Note that his clear rain suit has shredded and the left-hand side of his tyres are shot. (Photo: Peter Geran).