Valentino Rossi ended his pre-season preparations in fine style today after taking top honours in the traditional 40-minute 'Qualifying' Practice session at Jerez, smashing last year's pole time and becoming the fastest man ever round the Spanish circuit in the process. There was double satisfaction for Yamaha as Rossi's team-mate Colin Edwards, who took this same accolade in treacherously wet conditions at Catalunya last year, finished the session third.
After a one-two in this morning's free practice, Rossi and Edwards were feeling confident for this afternoon's timed shoot-out and with several qualifying tyres each to try during the session, had plenty of chances to see what their 800cc Yamahas could do under pressure. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) took an early lead before Dani Pedrosa (Honda) took control with just over half the session gone. Rossi soon joined him at the top and an exciting battle ensued between the Italian and the Spaniard as they swapped the lead several times over the last twenty minutes, with Edwards remaining in close contention throughout. In the closing stages of the session Rossi produced a perfect lap to set an outstanding time of 1'38.394, almost seven-tenths of a second faster than Capirossi's pole time from 2006. Pedrosa was unable to find an answer despite crossing the line seconds before the chequered flag and mounting a last-gasp effort to usurp Rossi from the top spot.
Today's result marks the end of a long but satisfying pre-season testing campaign for the Yamaha Factory Team, who leave Jerez in good shape and high spirits ahead of the first race of the season in Qatar on 10th March.
Valentino Rossi (1st, 1'38.394, 17 Laps);
"After this morning, when my Yamaha worked very well, I knew that I had a chance to try to win this competition. However I knew it was going to be a hard fight as well and I definitely expected Pedrosa to be as strong as he was. It was a fun battle with him, the first real one of the year! Anyway with every qualifying tyre I tried it felt better and better and I was able to go faster; in the end my time was fantastic and my Yamaha really flew! The most important thing about this is that it shows what great work we've done over the winter, everyone has tried so hard and this is a nice way to say thank you to them all. This new bike is working really well with the new tyres, both with race and qualifying tyres, so this is very important too and I would like to say thank you to Michelin. It was fun to see just how far I can push this new bike and it has answered me brilliantly, I felt very confident in my Yamaha today and I was able to ride it on the limit. Colin was also very fast so this once again shows how well our bike is working. Of course this isn't even the first race and now we have to wait until Qatar, but we're definitely in good shape and I am excited about the season ahead!"
Colin Edwards (3rd, 1'39.300, 16 Laps);
"That was good fun today! This morning everything really came together for both Valentino and I and we knew that we were going to be able to push hard this afternoon. The Michelin qualifiers worked great and, after some of the problems we had last year, that's a massive relief for us. I had a few more issues than Valentino in the timed session, nothing serious but our setting wasn't quite the same as his and I wasn't able to match his pace, but we know what we need to work on and anyway we were still in the top three and pretty fast. Honestly both Valentino and I are just so happy with everything, it all seems to work and it seems all the effort over the winter has paid off this time! It's good to have finally finished testing and to be leaving here on such a high note; it gives everyone that extra kick for the first race. I can't wait to finally get to Qatar now and start racing!"
Davide Brivio - Team Director;
"This is only an appetiser before the real racing begins, but anyway it's always nice to win this competition for the third time in four years and it gives everyone real confidence for the first race. The fact that Valentino was on top and Colin third is really great and it's especially important that it's happened here at Jerez, where we struggled quite a bit last year. This is very satisfying for everyone and it shows we've worked very well in the right direction throughout winter testing. Of course the race is a different story, so now we will focus on Qatar and hope it goes well for us there too."
Alex Barros (1'42.100 - 29 laps in free practice / 1'41.038 Qualifyfing session):
"Today I'm not very satisfied, because we know I can be better. I have some difficulty with both tires, the qualifying and the race com pounds. My race pace wasn't constant and I wasn't able to work as I would have liked. For Qatar, Phillip Island, and Sepang, we found good solutions for the bike's disposition, but here it didn't go as we wanted. I didn't have the right feeling with my bike and I'm wasn't able to run with the highest corner speed. Anyway, the winter tests were good for us. We still have a lot of work to do to find the right competitiveness, but overall, I'm satisfied with the work that the Team done . I'm sure to begin the World Championship with a strong motivation, fighting constantly for the podium."
Alex Hofmann (1'40.851 - 44 laps in free practice/ 1'40.681 Qualifying session):
"This test in Jerez was very difficult for us. We have work a lot to find the right set-up to utilize in the next GP race at Jerez, and we'll be studying all the data we assembled here this weekend. During the afternoon we ran a simulation race, and our race pace is good, but I'm not completely satisfied. Both of today's times, obtained in race configuration and qualifying were not so bad. This isn't really my favorite track, but we're coming back here in one month, and I want to do the best I can. The winter tests were good fun, and I'm confident for the beginning of the 2007 Championship. I am highly motivated this year and I can't wait to get my best results ever ".
Casey Stoner, Laps 35- 6th fastest - 1m 39.873s;
"The day started out pretty good, we were making the right choices with set-up. After the dash for the car we tried a race simulation and that didn't go too well, I had a little bit of a glitch in the engine so I had to pull in. After that we tried going out with a different rear tyre which we couldn't get to work and I had a crash at the end. I don't usually like to go out on the track after 5.30, but I wasn't pushing hard, unfortunately it broke away on me quite quickly. Now we need to regroup and go in a different direction for the race here. This has been our worst test for a long time now which isn't too bad because the past couple of days and this morning we had been going well. If this is the worst it's going to be then I'm quite happy with that. I was reasonably happy with the qualifying session, I wasn't aiming at the car. We were there to test some qualifying tyres and I had a really good feeling and sensation with them, so I think the more I ride on them and the better setting we get, the further we can push ourselves up the grid. Now I'm looking forward to going racing - we've been waiting for that for a long time."
Loris Capirossi, 41 laps - 7th fastest - 1m 39.887s;
"The important thing is that this morning we found the right direction to solve the set-up problems we experienced yesterday. Now we are happy enough with our race pace - we can lap in the low one minute 41s and that's not so bad - so we have achieved a good target. We knew that the situation with qualifying tyres could be a bit more difficult and, even though we've made some progress, it's clear that we need to continue working with Bridgestone in this area to be fully competitive, because at the moment we suffer a lot at tracks without a lot of grip. Another thing that will be difficult at the start of the season is dealing with the new tyre regulations which give us a limited number of tyres at each race, but that's the same for everyone."
Nicky Hayden - 1'39.556, 101 laps, 446 Km;
"It was definitely fun to get out there again with the boys with something on the line - the timed session gave it a bit of an edge today and was a little bit of a tease before the first race. The position is not too bad but my time is quite a long way from the front.
I haven't spent much time on qualifying tyres at the winter tests so it was good to get that time here and put in a few quick laps. Some of the other riders really put in some hot laps today so credit to them. The conditions towards the end of the session were dodgy because there was a fine mist of rain falling which made it interesting Ð and riding on qualifiers is always exciting enough anyway. I feel like perhaps we're still missing a little something to get the speed I want but I'm excited to go racing - I'm really looking forward to it."
Dani Pedrosa - 1'38.527, 97 laps, 429 Km;
"I'm very happy with the 40-minute timed session because I really didn't expect to be this fast. I improved the lap time on qualifying tyres by a lot from the last time I rode here. This was the goal for the session and I did it, so I'm happy.
It's been a really good test for me because we will only have limited time in which to test tyres this season. It was a good competition with Valentino today but I was not focused on his times, I just wanted to put these tyres on the limit and concentrate on myself, which is what I did. It's been a valuable three days, we have made progress with the set-up of the bike for the race and also qualifying, so I'm hoping we're ready for the first round at Qatar."
Toni Elias (11°, 1'40"202, 44 laps in total):
"We are struggling a bit because we need to adjust the bike to the new tyres so we need to work a lot on suspension and chassis. All in all, I'm confident because the Bridgestone technicians are working very hard and the team is doing a great job".
Marco Melandri (14°, 1'40"396, 44 laps in total):
"It was a difficult day but this 3 day testing session very important to collect data and understand many things about the bike. This afternoon I also made a race simulation and we improved the race rhythm. We need to make a step forward with the qualifying tyre but I'm confident that the Bridgestone technicians will do their best. I'm confident because I trust a lot my team and our partners".
Shinya Nakano - Rider, Konica Minolta Honda (83 laps - 1' 40.242");
"I'm quite disappointed about my performance on qualifying tyres, but I could never put a perfect lap together. Also with qualifying tyres fitted the balance of the bike wasn't so good with a return of some chatter at the front-end of the bike. Thankfully in the afternoon we concentrated once more on race tyres and settings. With two tyres to test I did two series of 10 consistent laps and we learned a lot from that, so I'm quite happy and confident about our performance come the race here at the end of next month."
"Today we mainly worked on tyres testing with Michelin. We got some improvements in the front end but it's not fixed yet. My pace on race tyres is pretty good but I still struggle on qualifiers. Anyway I feel satisfied because this time I upped my pace on qualifiers compared to the rest of the winter tests and this is positive. Now we must find a solution for the engine because I need more power especially on fast tracks such as Qatar, Istanbul and Shanghai. Honestly we did a great job during the winter to adapt to this new machine but I could go faster and hope that HRC can help me somehow".
Randy de Puniet: 5th - 16 Qualifying Laps - Best Lap 1'39.832;
"I am a little bit upset, not with the position I got at the official practice, but with my lap time. I improved with every qualifying tyre I tried, but in my last lap I hit a false neutral in the gearbox and that lost me some time. It also started to rain, but I just closed my eyes and pushed hard until the end. I'm sure that without the mistake I would have been into the low 1'39s bracket. Overall I am satisfied with the job we did during the session and these three days of testing. We made some changes to suspension settings and my feeling was much better this morning. Today the engine was smoother and this is important for race distance. I can't wait to arrive in Qatar for the first round."
Olivier Jacque: 15th - 12 Qualifying laps - Best Lap 1'40.551;
"This afternoon's timed session was the first time I've tested the qualifying tyres from Bridgestone. I was surprised at just how much more grip they offer compared to the race tyres, which meant I didn't get the best from the rear qualifier first time out. On the second tyre my lap time was a second quicker and I'm confident I'd have been able to improve again with the third soft tyre, but then I noticed rain on my visor, so I abandoned the last flying lap and returned to the pits. Now I realise I could have carried on, but I wasn't sure how heavy the rain was at different parts of the circuit and there was no reason to risk everything for a fast time so close to the start of the season. Anyway, overall I'm pretty satisfied because I'm not so far off the top five. The bike definitely felt better today and the extra grip of the qualifiers helped to overcome some of the set-up issues we've had. The balance is still not perfect, but most important is that we've seen an improvement day by day."
Andrew Pitt, Ilmor GP Rider:
"We made good progress this morning - we tried out the qualifying tyres and it
felt good - we are definitely continuing to make positive developments. We made some small steps forward
with the throttle pick-up which has been an issue previously. It has been great to have Mario here - he's good
for morale and we made some great progress on the electronics side of things, he and his team are able to
quickly pinpoint any issues. To be honest, I think we were unlucky in the timed session, I did my best time
today and we had a new front tyre which was performing well - I'm sure we could have taken at least another
half a second off our best time today."
Jeremy McWilliams, Ilmor GP Rider:
"I was a little disappointed by the timed session today - we had a
minor technical issue but once that was sorted I managed to put in some good consistent laps. We have
definitely made some steps in the right direction ahead of Qatar. Ideally I would like another test but
unfortunately time won't allow us that privilege. On the whole, things are looking positive."
"I haven't used qualifiers all winter on the 800 so it was a good session for me, as I got to learn a lot about them. I used five rear qualifying tyres in the whole 40 minutes so we made full use of it. We tried four different compounds and constructions, and we got a lot of information for Bridgestone. It was quite difficult during the session as there were some spots of rain and I actually pulled in on one of my laps as there was quite a bit of rain on one of the corners and I didn't want to risk anything. It's the quickest lap I've ever done at Jerez, quicker than my qualifying here last year, so it shows we are making progress and with a clear lap I am sure I could go even quicker! Although we have learned a lot from the qualifiers our main focus is still to get the best tyre we can to do 27 quick laps in the race!"
"I am very disappointed to crash. I was getting quicker all the time and I am sure I would have done better. I had a high-side on the second corner and wasn't able to get back out again in the timed session. I have done lots of testing and learnt the track and I am looking forward to coming back here for the race."
- 1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1'38.394
- 2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1'38.527
- 3. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1'39.300
- 4. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 1'39.556
- 5. Randy De Puniet (Kawasaki) 1'39.832
- 6. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1'39.873
- 7. Loris Capirossi (Ducati) 1'39.887
- 8. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 1'40.043
- 9. Kenny Roberts ( KR - Honda) 1'40.083
- 10. Carlos Checa ( Honda) 1'40.100
- 11. Toni Elias ( Honda) 1'40.202
- 12. Shinya Nakano (Honda) 1'40.242
- 13. Makoto Tamada (Yamaha) 1'40.307
- 14. Marco Melandri (Honda) 1'40.396
- 15. Oliver Jacque (Kawasaki) 1'40.551
- 16. Alex Hofmann (Ducati) 1'40.681
- 17. Alex Barros ( Ducati) 1'41.038
- 18. Kousuke Akiyoshi (Suzuki) 1'41.805
- 19. Sylvain Guintoli (Yamaha) 1'42.215
- 20. Vittoriano Guareschi (Ducati) 1.43.008
- 21. Andrew Pitt (Ilmor) 1'43.026
- 22. Shinichi Ito (Ducati) 1'43.073
- 23. Jeremy McWilliams (Ilmor) 1'43.202