News Report 17 October 2008

2008 MotoGP Malaysia - Sepang

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5543 m
10 / 19 / 2008
Time to be confirmed

Colin Edwards sets hot pace in Sepang sauna

Free practice

Colin Edwards made a stunning return to form in typically scorching hot Sepang conditions today, the Tech 3 Yamaha rider ending the opening free practice sessions for the penultimate race of 2008 with the fastest time.

The American, who was fourth quickest in this morning’s opening session, didn’t let a brief interruption caused by a short rain shower this afternoon disturb his impressive speed.

Spots of rain continued to fall for the remainder of the session, but Edwards maintained his focus to clock a best time of 2.02.667 that edged out newly crowned world champion and fellow Yamaha YZR-M1 rider Valentino Rossi by 0.171s.

In air temperatures that peaked at 32 degrees, Edwards’ performance was helped by a decision to revert back to a front-end setting he used at the beginning of the season. The modification immediately improved Edwards’ confidence with the front-end of his YZR-M1, which also helped him drastically improve his corner speed at the long and technically challenging Sepang circuit. He was one of only three riders to dip under the 2.02 mark.

James Toseland was 13th quickest, setting his best time of 2.03.964 this morning as he finished just over a second adrift of the leading pace. The British rider began his MotoGP career in Sepang last November when he made his YZR-M1 debut.

Colin Edwards - Position: 1 Time: 2'02.667 Laps: 36
“It feels really good to be back at the front because the last few races have been tough. We have gone back to a front-end setting that I started the year on and it has transformed the bike and I’ve got my confidence back. We made a change at the Le Mans test with the offset and I started to have the best results of my career on tracks where I’d struggled before. I was fifth in Mugello and Catalunya, fourth in Donington and then I got on the podium in Assen, so I thought it was definitely the direction to go. I thought we’d stumbled on the magic setting, but since then I’ve struggled with the front-end. I have not been able to carry the corner speed I’d like and I’ve been running wide a lot. But now I’ve changed the front back to what I’ve known for most of my Yamaha career, it feels fantastic. Now the bike isn’t pushing off line at maximum lean angle and the riding just feels natural. Before it felt like I had to really force the front down in the corner to get the bike steering. Now I know exactly what the front tyre is doing and for me that is crucial because my style means I rely on front-end feel so much. I’m running out of time to learn things at this stage of my career, but I’ve learned that I need to stick with what I know works. Michelin have got some good tyres here and my race pace is really consistent. Even when the grip was dropping off a bit I was still able to run the lap times. There were a few drops of rain around but I felt confident to push, and its been a long time since I’ve felt like that.”

Valentino Rossi, the recently-crowned 2008 MotoGP World Champion, got off to a strong start for the season’s second-last race in Sepang today, finishing second in the combined standings. The Italian was one of just three riders to dip under the 2’02 mark and the only one to do so in both sessions, having topped the time sheets in the morning.

After torrential downpours yesterday a few spots of rain at the start of second practice caused Rossi to delay his exit from the pits by a few minutes, but it did not worsen and the riders were able to use most of the session to continue with the dry set-up work they had begun in the morning. Rossi spent the day working on developing his base set-up to suit the demands of this track, which is the longest on the calendar, as well as working his way through his allocation of Bridgestone tyres.

Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo also put in fast times today, finishing second in the morning and fifth in the combined standings.
Valentino Rossi - Position: 2nd Time: 2'02.693 Laps: 38
“This was a good day for us because we were fastest this morning and then second this afternoon behind Colin. I like this track a lot; it’s difficult, technical and wide and it’s possible to have a lot of fun riding a MotoGP bike here. It’s a different feeling compared to the tests here pre-season, because the bike has changed a lot since then and we’ve also learnt a lot more about the tyres; it’s good to see how much we have improved everything since then. Our pace today is already good so I think we have a good potential this weekend, but it’s definitely possible to improve some more and make our setting better. We need to work on one or two small things. I have a strong motivation for a good result here!”

Davide Brivio - Team Manager
“Overall it’s been a good opening day for us. We had a good session this morning, when everything worked well from the start, and then this afternoon we were able to continue more or less in the same way despite losing a bit of time because of the light rain at the start. We’ve been fast all day and we’ve collected a lot of information to add to the data we have from testing here pre-season. It seems our bike is already at a good level for this track so tomorrow we will look to refine our setting and finalise our tyre choice to make sure we’re in the best shape.”

Fiat Yamaha Team rider Jorge Lorenzo made a promising start to the penultimate Grand Prix of his rookie season today, finishing fifth overall in the combined standings on the opening day in Sepang.

Lorenzo got his weekend off to a flying start this morning, finishing second behind his team-mate Valentino Rossi. Light rain at the start of this afternoon’s session made the track conditions slightly less predictable and the Spaniard lacked a little grip in his final rear tyre, meaning he was unable to improve on his time from this morning. He is confident however that, with some more work on his set-up and Michelin tyres tomorrow, he will be in the right form to challenge for a front-row grid slot during qualifying.
Jorge Lorenzo - Position: 5 Time: 2'03.179 Laps: 38
“I felt good here today! Unfortunately this afternoon we changed a lot of things and we didn’t have quite enough grip with the final tyre, so we weren’t able to improve on the time from this morning, but anyway we know what the problem is so we’re not so worried. I think I can be competitive here and that I can fight for the front row tomorrow. It’s very hot but it’s still great fun to ride the M1 here, you can slide the rear, which is a fantastic feeling on these bikes, and I really enjoyed myself today. I hope that this can continue for the rest of the weekend.”

Daniele Romagnoli - Team Manager
“The morning session was quite good and also useful to help us to confirm the improvements we have made this season since the winter tests. This afternoon was a bit more difficult however because of the changeable track conditions after the little bit of rain we had. Unfortunately we didn’t select the best tyre for the right moment but we are confident that we can improve tomorrow and be competitive this weekend.”
James Toseland – Position: 13 Time: 2'03.964 Laps: 38
“This track is so long and technical that it took a bit of time to get back into the swing of things and the test in January seemed like a long time ago. I felt pretty comfortable this morning but we never really moved forward with the setting this afternoon and that is a bit frustrating. We have got an idea on how to improve the bike for tomorrow because I’m struggling on corner exit. When I’m mid-corner and getting on the throttle, I’m struggling with some feel from the rear to get off the corner. At a track like this where there are a few bumps it is making it feel as twice as bad. There are also a lot of corners where you accelerate from slow speed, so rear feeling is crucial. I can do high 2.03s and I’m about three-quarters-of-a-second off the best race pace, so it has not been a disastrous day.”