Fans have already begun to stream into the Ricardo Tormo circuit to witness the first exchanges of what promises to be another historic chapter in this sport’s great history, with bright sunshine and warm autumn temperatures of 25ºC welcoming them to the eastern coast of Spain for the final round of the season.
In the morning session Rossi and his Camel Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards helped raise the heat with a series of quick laps that left the Italian on top of the time sheets, with the American sixth fastest over lunch. However, the pace picked up considerably in the afternoon as a number of riders tested out their qualifying rubber ahead of tomorrow afternoon’s grid decider and the pair slipped down the order, with Rossi ending the day seventh fastest overall and Edwards, who was unable to improve on his best lap from the morning, down in eleventh.
Loris Capirossi (Ducati) clocked the fastest time of the day with a lap of 1’32.220, ahead of Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki) and Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki). Rossi and Edwards will look to close the gap as they work on further setting refinements to their YZR-M1 machines in the final free practice session tomorrow morning, before official qualifying gets underway at 2pm local time.
VALENTINO ROSSI (7th – 1’33.274; 51 laps)
“We found a good setting this morning and we were quite fast from the start, but this afternoon some of the others made big improvements and caught up with us! This afternoon we tried a lot of different things and quite a few tyres, trying to find the best possible package for tomorrow and Sunday. This track isn’t so easy and it takes time to find the right setting, but the feeling from the bike is good and in general our race pace is quite fast so we’re not really worried. We’ve got one or two things to improve, especially with the balance of the bike in a couple of the hard braking areas, but I think if we can make just a couple of improvements then we will be able to fight at the top. For now we will stay calm and focused and tomorrow things will be clearer.”
COLIN EDWARDS (11th – 1’33.545; 39 laps)
“It's okay, everything is under control! Our new breakthrough, ‘miracle’ setting that we found in Motegi needed a few tweaks before it was perfect for Estoril and here it's the same story. In fact we need to make a few small changes back towards the Motegi setting in order to have it perfect for this track. Everything we're learning and understanding here, especially with the setting, is going to be really valuable next year, even with the new bike, so that's quite exciting. We understand why it was perfect in Portugal and why we've got some problems here, so there's no need to panic. We'll make some changes tonight and I’m confident that we'll be back up there tomorrow.”
DAVIDE BRIVIO – CAMEL YAMAHA TEAM DIRECTOR
“With Valentino we worked a lot today on many different things. We’re still trying to fine tune the setting and select the right tyres but anyway the situation is not so bad. Colin this morning was quite fast but now we need to look at what happened this afternoon because he couldn’t improve on that time. We’ve got some work to get through tonight to see how we can improve with him but it seems his team understands what they need to do and I am sure they will be able to bring everything together for tomorrow. It’s not a perfect start but we’re relaxed, it’s only Friday and we have all of Saturday to improve.”