Rizla Suzuki’s Álvaro Bautista today completed his first full day of practice on a MotoGP machine at the Le Mans circuit in France, but still feels he has more work to do.
Bautista (P15, 1’35.992, 42 laps) is still recovering from the broken femur he suffered eight weeks ago, and is yet to reach full fitness, but the plucky Spaniard didn’t let that bother him today as he set about coming to terms with the stop-start nature of the Le Mans track – a configuration that certainly tested him and the Suzuki GSV-R to the limit. Bautista progressed steadily throughout the day and recorded his best lap-time of the penultimate circulation of the afternoon session. He worked with his team to get the GSV-R set-up to give him the confidence he requires and is convinced he will be stronger as the weekend progresses. Today marked the first time that Bautista has completed a session on a MotoGP bike after a crash in last year’s first session ruled him out of the rest of the weekend’s proceedings.
Today’s practices were both held in dry and sunny conditions, but a brisk wind kept temperatures at a pleasant 24ºC this afternoon. Honda’s Casey Stoner led the way in both of today’s practice sessions to top the leader-board on day one.
Rizla Suzuki and Bautista have one more practice session tomorrow morning, before an hour of qualifying in the afternoon. Sunday’s 28-lap race is the fourth round of the 2011 season and the lights will go out to signal the start of the race at 14.00hrs local time (12.00hrs GMT).
“It has been a difficult day because for me this has really been the first time I’ve ridden a MotoGP bike here – after crashing and not being able to continue last year. In both sessions I had a bit of a problem entering the corners because I didn’t feel like I had enough grip. The bike felt like it was floating and this didn’t give me the confidence to turn quickly. We will have to work on this to improve things, but I have complete faith in my team that they will get it sorted out. We still need a bit more time to get the bike set right so I can start to push to the limit, but the bike didn’t give me that today and in my condition it’s quite difficult to push that far. My mind and my body still don’t want to risk anything, so we still need to go step-by-step, but I’m sure we’ll be quicker tomorrow. My leg is much better than Portugal, it’s still not perfect, but I was able to do the whole of today’s practices without getting too tired.”
Paul Denning – Team Manager:
“Álvaro is more focussed on performance here in Le Mans, than he is on recovering from his broken leg, but we have to be realistic and remember that he is still in the recuperation process. In addition, the Le Mans circuit holds some horrible memories from last year, so for all these reasons it will take a while to build his confidence and let him attack the circuit. Without question there’s work to do with the bike and the benefits of the new chassis are not being felt yet – we need to get the settings right so he can go closer to the limits. We’ve done plenty of laps today – and got some useful data – and now we have a base to be able to improve significantly tomorrow.”
Monster Energy Grand Prix de France Combined Free Practice Classification:
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’33.782: 2. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) +0.404: 3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) +0.649: 4. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) +0.870: 5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) +0.877: 15. ÁLVARO BAUTISTA (RIZLA SUZUKI MOTOGP) +2.210: