Lorenzo and Rossi second and third on opening night
Five months on from the final race of last season the Fiat Yamaha pair of Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi were back in action in Qatar tonight for the opening free practice of 2010, finishing the session second and third
behind Casey Stoner. Last season's in-house rivalry looks set to continue with the Spaniard having the edge over the Italian tonight by just 0.002 seconds, the former emerging unscathed after touching a white line and sliding off his M1 near the end of the session.
Lorenzo, last season's runner-up, was on great form for most of the hour despite not being back to full fitness after his recent hand injury. The 22-year-old was looking comfortable and confident on his bike and was able to ride without any additional hand protection inside his glove. After sitting third in the times for most of the session a late improvement saw him better his team-mate's time by just two thousandths of a second, before making a mistake at turn 14 the next time around and going down into the gravel trap. He was luckily unhurt and is confident that he can make further improvements tomorrow.
Reigning World Champion Rossi meanwhile was a little disappointed with his opening performance and admitted he was expecting to be faster after his strong showing here in testing. The 31-year-old found he was lacking grip on the dusty track and he and his team will be looking to improve their setting tomorrow in order to get the most out of the Bridgestone tyres and close the gap to Stoner.
Jorge Lorenzo - Position: 2nd - Time: 1'56.026 - Laps: 20
"I'm quite happy about tonight and about my hand; I tried riding for the first time without the extra hand protection and I was okay. I felt good on the bike and my thumb didn't really hurt, it was a lot better than at the test. We still have a few things on the bike that we need to work on but we have made a good start. It was a pity to crash, I was pushing hard at the time and I just made a small mistake, touching the white line; these things happen and luckily I didn't hurt myself. Tomorrow we'll continue our work and try to improve more."
Valentino Rossi - Position: 3rd - Time: 1'56.028 - Laps: 23
"Honestly I expected to be faster today - the lap time is not bad but it could be better. The conditions are much better than during the test, it's warmer and a lot less humid so I'm happy about that, but we don't have enough grip and I was sliding quite a lot so we need to try to find a way to improve this. Stoner is always very fast here and I hope we can close the gap to him by making some small changes to our suspension. If we can stop the bike sliding then we will be a lot faster."
Wilco Zeelenberg - Team Manager
"Apart from the crash we're very satisfied with this first official session of the year. Jorge was on a quick lap when he touched the white line and went down, this is just one of those things that happens to every rider now and again and luckily he wasn't hurt. It was encouraging to see Jorge's level after missing some testing and we can see that he is already competitive. The bike is good and the speed is there; there are just a few small details to work on but we've made a good start."
Davide Brivio - Team Manager
"Tonight we checked the different Bridgestone tyres and also made some small adjustments to the balance of the bike, but we still need to improve our setting. At the moment we're not getting the full potential of our tyres and this is slowing us down. We are not too far off but we can be better so we'll work hard tomorrow to make a step forward."