Both riders were able to work on their race setting, adapting the machine configuration from the fast and flowing demands of Phillip Island to the stop-start nature of Motegi, before fitting a softer compound rear tyre in a trial run ahead of tomorrow’s crucial qualifying practice.
Rossi was on the pace in both instances, running second fastest in the morning free practice and stepping up the tempo with a string of fast and consistent laps in the afternoon. His best time on a race tyre of 1’48.044 was just a fraction outside lap record pace and is a positive reflection of his potential in Sunday’s race. Edwards, meanwhile, was delighted to follow up his positive progress in Australia with another impressive practice showing. The Texan topped the timing screens for lengthy spells in the afternoon as he also lapped in the low 1’48s before settling for the fourth fastest time overall as other riders also experimented with a qualifying tyre.
VALENTINO ROSSI (1st – 1’46.981; 44 laps) “I am very happy with today; we’ve made a really good start. The track has a good grip and also Michelin have made great progress since this race last year, especially with the front tyre. They have a new front tyre here which gives me much better grip when braking and so I was able to ride the bike at the maximum straight away today, which meant that I had great fun! My pace is okay, although there are many riders with a similar rhythm so I think it’s going to be a hard battle on Sunday! My best time today was done with the qualifying tyre and once again my bike worked perfectly in this situation, so this is good news for tomorrow. Colin was fast too today, as he was last weekend, which shows what good work we’ve done on our M1 over the last few races. This race is very important for the championship so it’s nice to start off on the right foot with this good result. Now we wait to see if we can continue in this way tomorrow.”
COLIN EDWARDS (4th – 1’47.581; 41 laps)
“We found something in Phillip Island which seems to have made all the difference; we pulled the bike out this morning and it felt good straight away. We’ve basically just softened up the setting and it’s since felt like a completely different bike. Obviously Motegi is a very different track to Phillip Island but what we used today was pretty much the same bike with virtually the same setting – just a few modifications that we thought would help us here. The crew have done a great job and we’ve still got another day to work on improving the setting ahead of the race. We used a qualifying tyre today, which we don’t usually do on a Friday, and I was really pleased with the lap time. Now we have to keep going, make sure we don’t take a single step backwards and head into Sunday’s race with confidence of a top result.”
DAVIDE BRIVIO – CAMEL YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR “For a start we are very happy to see Colin on top, more or less throughout the whole session today, so we have to keep going with him – improving his feeling with the bike and continuing to give him a good package to work with. Valentino has also made a good start and it is always an advantage when both riders feel comfortable from the first moment because they can push hard and give you lots of valuable data to work from. It means that we have a good setting now on both bikes so even if it rains tomorrow, as they say it might, we can be confident for Sunday. As far as using the qualifying tyre in free practice is concerned, we had actually already started to do this before Malaysia, to provide some information for the qualifying session on Saturday afternoon. However, I don’t think there is any doubt that it is in the back of teams’ minds now to set a good lap time, just in case there is a similar situation with the weather to the one we had at Sepang.”