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Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Begin Austrian Adventure

Movistar Yamaha MotoGP_081216

The NeroGiardini Motorrad Grand Prix von Österreich got underway today as Movistar Yamaha MotoGP took to the Red Bull Ring – Spielberg circuit for the first official practice sessions.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP teammates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo made a solid start this morning in tricky conditions. Cold weather again proved to be the biggest challenge, with temperatures around only nine degrees Celsius as both Factory Yamaha riders focused on finding the perfect set-up for Sunday’s race. They improved their times in the afternoon session and took fourth and eighth place respectively in the combined practice times.

Rossi secured his first World Championship podium of his career at the Spielberg circuit in 1996, with a third place in the 125cc class, and he clearly enjoyed returning to the venue twenty years later. The Doctor delivered a strong morning practice session, which saw him top the provisional results list for the majority of the time. After the session was briefly stopped due to a damaged air fence, he spent the remaining 12 minutes fine-tuning his bike’s setting and secured fourth place with a 1’26.232s, 0.366s from the front.

The afternoon saw further improvements from the nine-time World Champion. He was riding consistently fast lap times as he tried to find the best lines on the track and a perfect balance for his YZR-M1 to go with it. He wrapped up the day in fourth with a personal best lap of 1’24.483, 0.866s from the fastest time of the day.

Teammate Lorenzo had a cautious start to the weekend. With chilly weather conditions and the tyres brought by Michelin being very different from the test three weeks ago, the Mallorcan used the first 45-minute free practice session to get a feel for the track. A late charge saw him end FP1 in seventh place with a 1’26.375s, 0.509s from first.

He was quick to resume his work during FP2. Consistently improving his pace, he bettered his morning time by over a second as he continued to perfect the set-up of his YZR-M1. With the temperature rising and the times dropping, he saved his best for the last stint when he breached into the 1’24’s with a 1’24.988s, to end the day in eighth place, 1.371s from the front.

Massimo Meregalli – Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director

“We started FP1 with the setup we prepared three weeks ago during the test, but the conditions were very cold and the new tyres that Michelin brought are quite hard considering the temperatures. Due to this we had to almost start from zero again regarding our settings. For tomorrow it will be fundamental to reduce the gap, which is quite significant. To do so we’ll study the data we collected today, especially as Jorge is not comfortable with his bike. Contrarily, Vale is more comfortable with it, though there are still opportunities to improve and I’m confident that we can make another step forward for tomorrow and I hope the weather will do so as well.”

Valentino Rossi
4th / 1’24.483 / 46 laps

“There was a big difference compared to the test, with a lot lower temperatures out on the track. The bike was more difficult to ride and it was especially challenging to put in the tyre with the right grip. The first day was not so bad, it was actually quite positive because my pace was good. The biggest problem is that two factory rivals are very strong so we need to work and give the maximum to try to reduce the gap tomorrow. The tyres that Michelin brought here are better than the ones at the test, the allocation is OK. The problem is that we don’t have summery weather anymore, it’s another season, so we have to wait and hope for good weather tomorrow and especially on Sunday.”

Jorge Lorenzo
8th / 1’24.988 / 43 laps

“There’s a difference between us and our rivals, but you know you have to work on your own bike and your own pace to try to improve it and that’s what we did. We tried to modify the bike and improve by some tenths and we got a good pace. We didn’t put the softer tyre on the rear like some other riders, so we have some margin to be even closer. Especially in the morning it was very cold and it’s only been on a few occasions that it was colder than today. It was tricky because we had to be careful in some corners to avoid crashing. In the afternoon it was a little bit better, with the temperature a few degrees higher, so we had a better feeling but we hope tomorrow the sun will shine a bit more and we’ll have more confidence.”

Espargaro positively gets up to speed on the opening day at Spielberg

Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team rider Pol Espargaro bolted into action during the first day of the Austrian GP and finished in 13th as he battled the rapid Spielberg circuit for the first time. The young Spaniard wasted no time in getting up to speed, despite having to learn the new venue on the 2016 MotoGP calendar. Nevertheless, he completed 25 laps in FP1, the joint highest number in the session, and ended the practice with a personal best that was only a second from the front. His progression continued in the afternoon as he carried on taking steps forward in preparation for Sunday. The 25-year-old upped his pace and eventually powered to a time that was just over half a second from 5th, marking a solid close to the opening day. The current leading satellite rider in the championship standings will seek to maintain his momentum tomorrow and clinch a top tier grid position for the 28-lap shootout.

On the other side of the Monster Yamaha Tech3 pit box, Bradley Smith began his round 10 campaign with a determined effort aboard the Yamaha YZR-M1 as he prepares for the first race on Austrian soil since 2007. The 25-year-old started his day by concluding the opening practice behind his teammate by only 0.115, as he grew accustomed to the undulating circuit on a MotoGP bike. In the afternoon, Smith relentlessly completed 27 laps as he focused on setting up his Yamaha for the GP and he finished with a lap time that was just one second from Word Champion, Jorge Lorenzo. The young Briton eyes up tomorrow with optimism as he confidently intends to undertake a positive qualifying performance.

Pol Espargaro
13th / 1’25.221 / 47 laps

“It’s nice to be back on my M1 after the summer break and personally, I like the layout of the circuit a lot. It’s fun to ride, flowing and the grip level is really high. There are a few critical points on the track and it’s very fast, but it’s definitely different to the places where we usually go racing and that makes it special. Having said that, I’m convinced that we didn’t show our true potential today, as I still don’t know the layout enough and I’m lacking some references. Therefore, I occasionally missed my braking points, especially after having put on new tyres. I felt a bit nervous on the bike and for sure my fastest lap time is quite far from where we could have been, yet the gap to the factory guys isn’t too big and we have a lot of margin of improvement to make. It was very helpful to follow some other riders today and this was mainly what I tried to do in order to quickly obtain as much information as possible. After two sessions we now have a good base for the weekend and I’m looking forward to getting more laps under my belt tomorrow, plus I’m sure we will climb up in the rankings.”

Bradley Smith
17th / 1’25.941 / 50 laps

“I am happy to be working with the guys again and back racing after the summer break. With regards to our performance today, it’s clear to see that we have a bit more work to do and I’m a bit disappointed. I have to admit that we also didn’t make a big enough change in between the practice sessions which meant that it wasn’t possible to lower the lap time as much as the other guys. I think tyre life is going to be one of the main issues here this weekend. A lot of riders did short sprints today, but this afternoon I put in two fairly decent long runs and the endurance of the tyres seems to be a continuing issue. I’m a bit worried, and even more so if the temperature keeps on rising for the rest of the weekend, however, let’s see what happens. It goes without saying that we want to improve our one lap pace, yet right now the sensible option is to try and work on something for the race distance. That is what we tried to do today, and we have some more work to do but I’m sure we can get closer to where we want to be tomorrow.”