With an incredible lap in tricky conditions, Casey Stoner was the winner of a brand new BMW today, as the fastest rider in the Official MotoGP Test session at the Jerez circuit in Southern Spain.
Rain clouds threatened to dampen the atmosphere at the first
competitive action of the 2009 MotoGP season, but the Ducati Marlboro Team rider lit up the 45-minute shootout by registering a stunning 1'38.646 lap before the showers came and brought the practice to an abrupt end, smashing the existing circuit lap record by nearly 1.5 seconds.
“I really don't know where that fast lap came from, especially at this track where I've never even been on the podium before! It's been something of a bogey track for myself and the Ducati. The last two races here were difficult, but we definitely found something yesterday afternoon and that made us feeling more confident about Jerez. This is a very, very good step for us”, said the Australian. “This morning we went out and changed something else and immediately had a good feeling with the bike but still it was not in the right direction: we hit another wall. We were consistent but we needed to go a little bit further. This afternoon we changed a little bit the setting in the rear of the bike to try to get a bit more traction but I came out in the qualifying session not really expecting too much. I thought the rest were going to really up the ante. They did that and got their lap times down, but I never expected to do the lap times that I did when I needed to pull them out. It's a great start to the year, but the real work now begins in Qatar. Now I need these two weeks to come better physically, just fitness.
The wrist is coming better and better all the time and the arm is getting stronger and it doesn't effect me when I ride so now I can use these two weeks to train a lot more and try to get ready for the beginning of the season. We look forward to it”.
Stoner's Ducati Marlboro team-mate Nicky Hayden had a mixed session, as he set the eleventh fastest lap with a 1'40.401. The American continued his steady adaptation to the Ducati this weekend, with some positive steps forward during this morning's first run out. However, he also had a brave escape as he ran off track towards the latter stages of the timed practice.
The Kentucky rider bravely steered his Desmosedici GP9 to safety through the gravel trap as he left the track at high speed, but returned to the garage without a scratch. Despite the small setback, enough progress has been made for Hayden to be in a positive mood once he and the rest of the Ducati Marlboro join up at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar in two weeks time, for the opening race of the 2009 season.
“This morning we made some small improvements and I was able to go a bit quicker but the qualifying session was a bit of a disaster”, he said. “We were making some changes beforehand but ran out of time to get the bike ready and I lost some time at the beginning of the session. Then when I went out we had a clutch problem and I had to change to my second bike, which I've hardly ridden this weekend, and it had a different setting. Casey has shown the package is good and to be honest I'd hoped to be closer to him by this stage but it's time to go racing now so we'll go out to Qatar, work hard and see what happens.”
Factory test rider Vittoriano Guareschi also took part in the practice session, and was able to set his very own personal best on the Andalusian track in 1'41.485, confirming the progress made this weekend by the GP9.