Rizla Suzuki finally began this weekend’s preparations for the Australian Grand Prix at a later than scheduled time due to the heavy rain and strong winds that caused a delay in proceedings.
Loris Capirossi (P10, 1’43.984, 21 laps) made his way into the top-10 as conditions improved towards the end of the first practice session, as the winds that had brought torrential rain and a two-hour delay before the MotoGP riders could go out on track, then dried the circuit enough to show a dry line. When the track was at its wettest, Capirossi made many changes to his Suzuki GSV-R to find the best setting for the 4,448m Australian circuit, all of which assisted him as the wet, but drying, track made things very difficult for all riders. Capirossi also had to contend with the foot injury from Sepang last week and the cold conditions allied with most of the corners being right-handed, certainly took their toll on him as he finished the session in quite a large amount of pain.
Álvaro Bautista (P14, 1’46.160, 24 laps) produced a strong performance in the very wet conditions and was consistently inside the top-10 – an impressive feat considering the Spaniard had never ridden at Phillip Island on a MotoGP bike and has very limited wet weather experience on an 800cc machine.
With cold winds, coupled with the rain, the track temperatures only reached 10°C exactly the same as the air temperatures. Newly crowned World Champion Jorge Lorenzo produced the quickest time of the day.
Rizla Suzuki has one more free practice session tomorrow morning, followed by qualifying in the afternoon. With heavy rain also forecast for tomorrow, any piece of dry practice could be valuable as Sunday’s 27-lap race is expected to be held in the best conditions of the weekend.
“It’s been a tough day because until nearly four o’clock we didn’t know what we were going to do! The conditions in the practice were a little bit crazy in the beginning, not because it was wet, but because the air and the track were so cold. It was hard to warm the tyres and with it being so cold it made my condition worse than in Sepang last week. You have to move your body a lot here and there are many right turns so that put extra pressure on my foot as I moved my body and that gave me a bit more pain. Overall the session was not too bad and we’re now really looking to see what will happen with the weather tomorrow, because I want to do a good job here at Phillip Island. This is one of my favourite tracks and I really love to ride here, but with the conditions as they are we don’t know how our bike will go here this time. We have struggled in the past, but I am crossing my fingers because I really hope that we can go well this year.”
“It’s been a strange day today, because we have practiced two hours later than usual, so this has made the start to the weekend very different. At the beginning it was very wet and I just tried to get as many kilometres as possible in those conditions, because so far this year I’ve only ridden in the wet twice. I didn’t have a feeling of much contact with the track at the start of the session – it was like I was floating – so I went into the garage and made some changes, but when I exited again the track was starting to dry and this made it very difficult because some parts were very wet and others dry. This was a shame because we couldn’t tell if the modifications we made were better or not. It was good to have the opportunity to ride here in the wet and we’ll have to see what tomorrow brings. If it rains then we need to decide whether we keep working in the direction we were going today, or if it’s dry then we just have to start from the beginning.”
Stuart Shenton – Crew Chief Loris Capirossi:
“It’s been a bit of a steady start for us today, obviously the conditions were far from ideal and probably the cold was our biggest opponent today rather than the rain. It took a while for us to get going and for Loris to get into a groove, but at the end the wet setting we used didn’t seem to be too bad. There are a couple of things we will need to iron out if it continues to be wet, but we’ll be ready for that, although we’d certainly hope for better conditions over the weekend.”
Iveco Australian Grand Prix Free Practice Classification:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’41.146: 2. Casey Stoner (Ducati) +0.334: 3. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) +0.485: 4. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) +0.735: 5. Marco Melandri (Honda) +0.836: 10. LORIS CAPIROSSI (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +2.838: 14. ÁLVARO BAUTISTA (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +5.014: