The first European round of the 2014 MotoGP World Championship got underway on track today with two free practice sessions ahead of Sunday’s Gran Premio de Espana.
Movistar Yamaha MotoGP riders Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were both quick to find a very competitive pace. The pair made progress despite a scorching track temperature of just under 50 degrees making a lack of grip an increasing issue into the second session.
Lorenzo ended the day in second in the combined times with a best lap of 1’39.714, 0.357 seconds from first. Teammate Rossi ended in sixth with a 1’40.125 second lap, less than four tenths from Lorenzo.
The major challenge for both riders proved to be a lack of rear grip so the team will now work to make improvements for both set ups ahead of tomorrow morning’s third free practice session.
Lorenzo and Rossi also tested a new chassis for their YZR-M1 to improve the bike’s stability under braking. Positive results were obtained, giving Yamaha’s Japanese engineers a clear direction to continue development.
Monster Yamaha Tech3 Team riders Pol Espargaro and Bradley Smith experienced a tough first day of practice at the Circuito de Jerez. Bradley Smith’s chances of improving his FP1 time lucklessly ended prematurely due to an enormous crash at turn 11 at the end of the FP2 session, which the British rider fortunately walked away from uninjured. Smith started the day positively, and aimed to improve his lap time of 1:40.758 set in free practice 1 in the afternoon session, but his time was cut short by the crash. He finished in the combined standings in 11th position overall, but remains hopeful of bouncing back tomorrow and qualifying in the top six, in view to a positive result in Sunday’s 27-lap race.
Rookie Pol Espargaro steered his Yamaha YZR-M1 around the Andalucian circuit to clinch 11th in FP2, and 13th in the combined times today as he continues to progress and gather experience in the premier class. The reigning Moto2 world champion improved his FP1 lap time by a tenth of a second in the afternoon session, despite having suffered slight traction issues due to the greasy track surface. He aims to qualify competitively tomorrow for race day and then add to his impressive top eight finishes that he has obtained in his rookie MotoGP season so far, in front of his home fans.
The Spanish GP saw NGM Forward Racing rider Aleix Espargaro on top of the first day of practices. The Spaniard found a very good feeling with his Forward Yamaha already in the FP1 and he was able to ride fast from the beginning, setting a very good 1’39.357. In the afternoon, with the ground temperature of 49° degrees, Aleix struggled a bit with the soft tyre as the track was very slippery, but despite this he was able to set the second fastest lap time of 1’39.973, +0.2 behind Marc Marquez. With a lap time of 1’39.357 Aleix Espargaro closed on top of today’s combined times classification.
Team mate Colin Edwards found a positive feeling with his machine in the FP1. He was able to work on the set up and finished in 17th position with a lap time of 1’41.252. Tracks conditions changed a lot in the afternoon and Colin struggled with the electronics and couldn’t ride as he he would have wanted.
“The track changed so much from the morning to the afternoon, it was much more slippery and we had to try the different rear tyre. Like in Qatar it gave us the same problems with less grip and the bike then feels nervous. We are much closer than before though and I think we can close the gap.”
“We tried a different chassis today especially for the braking stability and the first impression is not so bad, it’s just a small step to understand the way to go. The track is very greasy so it’s difficult with the front and rear tyres with the high temperatures. It's difficult to control the bike and it slides a lot. Compared to the other top guys the pace is not so bad so it looks like we have worked well so far and now have to continue."
Massimo Meregalli Movistar Yamaha MotoGP Team Director
“It’s definitely a positive start to the weekend. For sure we were able to take advantage of all our experience at this track. The bike is working well but of course we have some things to change to improve. Compared to the previous races this is a very different start. The only real issue we have is rear grip. We are focused now on several steps to improve it and then we have to work on a long distance run. We are strong under braking so we are satisfied for the first sessions. Both Jorge and Vale are both reasonably happy overall and both have good pace but are also keen to make the next steps and improve even further.”
“Today was a tough day, but the most important thing is that I am ok after that huge crash and that I didn’t get any injuries. We didn’t find a good set up with the bike, despite trying many different options and I also struggled a lot with my the rear grip and my confidence with it. I tried the soft and hard compounds of both tyres, and provided Bridgestone with as much information as possible so that we can find a solution. We have a lot of work to do tomorrow, and seriously need to look into our setting. We are not close for the moment, and need to undertake a drastic change to get higher up the grid, but I am still confident that I can qualify well here in Jerez.”
“It looks like afternoon was better than this morning’s session in terms of performance, however there is a lot we need to improve on to get up to speed. We just tested the hard rear tyre in the afternoon, and struggled, so it will have to be the tomorrow morning when we try to set the fast lap time, when the track temperature is a bit cooler. I am confident I can get into QP2, however there’s still a lot to improve. We have to discover which settings we need to change on the bike in order to advance. Despite everything, my feeling is a bit better than this morning, so there are some small steps of encouragement but we need to make more.”
“I’m satisfied of how we started here in Jerez. This morning we found a good set up and I was able to push from the beginning. In the afternoon the track was very slippery due the torrid temperatures and it was more difficult to push as I was loosing the front, especially with the soft tyre. The most important thing is that we have a good pace with the hard tyre and that we lapped with the full tank. We will keep on working in preparation of the race. It’s great to close the first day on top but my priority is to get a good result in the race and a podium is my target as well as my dream”.
“This morning we started the session in the right direction and I was quiet comfortable on the bike but in the afternoon the track conditions changed a lot. The front was closing and I struggled with the electronics. I didn’t use the soft tyre, we will try it tomorrow”.
2014 MotoGP Spain
Jerez Circuit 02/05/2014
1 Aleix Espargaro Forward Yamaha ESP 1'39.357
2 Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha ESP 1'39.714
3 Marc Marquez Honda ESP 1'39.757
4 Daniel Pedrosa Honda ESP 1'39.860
5 Andrea Dovizioso Ducati ITA 1'40.028
6 Valentino Rossi Yamaha ITA 1'40.125
7 Alvaro Bautista Honda ESP 1'40.560
8 Stefan Bradl Honda GER 1'40.644
9 Yonny Hernandez Ducati COL 1'40.686
10 Andrea Iannone Ducati ITA 1'40.742
11 Bradley Smith Yamaha GBR 1'40.758
12 Nicky Hayden Honda USA 1'40.788
13 Pol Espargaro Yamaha ESP 1'40.918
14 Michele Pirro Ducati ITA 1'40.924
15 Hector Barbera Avintia ESP 1'40.928
17 Colin Edwards Forward Yamaha USA 1'41.252