Spies and Edwards kick off 2010 MotoGP challenge in Qatar
Ben Spies kicked off his first full MotoGP campaign in Qatar tonight with a promising ride to sixth position on his debut for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team.
Making only his second appearance under the spectacular
Losail International Circuit floodlights after a brilliant fourth place in last month's night test, the Texan started strongly and was immediately able to post competitive lap times.
Quickly into a fast and consistent rhythm in the early stages of the eagerly anticipated first session of the season, Spies was challenging in the top three behind Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi.
Spies, who won both World Superbike races in Qatar last year, spent the majority of the session evaluating the harder compound Bridgestone rear tyre in readiness for Sunday night's 22-lap race.
It was a tactic that paid off handsomely for the 25-year-old, who posted his best lap of 1.56.818 on his 21st lap, just one lap shy of full race distance.
Fellow Texan Colin Edwards started his third season in the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad by clocking the 12th fastest time in hot conditions as air temperatures hit 26 degrees. A best lap of 1.57.167 was less than 0.5s off the fourth best time set by Andrea Dovizioso.
Edwards was able to run in the top six for part of the session as he worked tirelessly with his crew to improve front-end feel on his Yamaha YZR-M1 machine. Edwards, who finished fourth in the Qatar MotoGP race a year ago, is confident weight distribution changes planned for tomorro w's practice and qualifying will bolster his hopes of a successful start to the season.
Ben Spies - Position: 6th Time: 1'56.818Laps: 22
"I didn't want anything crazy to go on with it being the first race. I wanted to be in the top ten for the first session of the year because the last time I rode the bike I fell, so I just wanted to clear my head and get off to a good start. To be in the top ten in the first session and right in sixth, I'm happy with that. We never really threw a lap time in and the session was pretty smooth. We went out on the hard tyres and it was good. We did our quickest lap on the 21st lap, which is close to a full race. Every time we went out the times were getting faster. Besides the top three guys, I think we've got pretty good speed, which is really important. We need to get some time on the softer tyre so when qualifying comes we can use it to its full potential. I still think we've got a second at least with fresh hard tyres on the bike, so I'm pretty happy about that."
Colin Edwards - Position: 12thTime: 1'57.167 Laps: 22
"I left the test last month in a bit of a grey area and wondering about a couple of things because the bike has a different geometry this year and it's changed the feel a bit. I've been trying to adapt to it but I need to make some changes and bring the set-up closer to what I had last year. Right now I'm not feeling all that comfortable. I feel like I'm chasing the bike on the front and it doesn't turn until I open the throttle. With this bike you can't ride it without momentum. That's one of its strong points and right now I can't take advantage of that. We'll take some weight off the front for tomorrow night and in my opinion that will help. I think 12th is a bit of a false position because I'm sure with some changes I'v e got another second in me. Right now there's too many corners where I can't carry the momentum I want. But I'm confident we can improve a lot."