Qatar : Repsol Honda - Day One
The Repsol Honda riders began their 2007 season today with two one-hour practice sessions at the Losail circuit near Doha, Qatar ahead of Saturday's season opening race.
Round one of the MotoGP World Championship sees the riders and
teams getting to grips with a number of new regulation changes affecting both the bikes and tyres. For 2007 engine capacity has been reduced to 800cc and each rider is limited to 31 slick tyres (14 fronts, 17 rears) for the race weekend, with the tyres selected the day before practice begins.
Nicky Hayden comes into the first race as reigning World Champion and proudly sporting the number one plate on his 800cc RC212V. The 25-year-old American spent today's timed sessions getting back into the grove of riding at the 5.380km (3.343 miles) Losail circuit after a tricky test here in February. Hayden adopted a cautious approach on this first day of the season, setting a best lap time of 1m 57.922s which put him in 15th place. The American wasn't thrilled to start the weekend in this position but, as he showed so many times in 2006, the new World Champion has the knack of building pace throughout the race weekend.
His team-mate, Dani Pedrosa was able to methodically work up to pace at the exposed and sandy desert circuit. The 21-year-old Spaniard topped the timesheets at the test here three weeks ago and today displayed his trademark step-by-step improvements, finishing the day with a best lap time of 1m 56.990s, just 0.526s behind the fastest rider.
The times were led today by Italian Valentino Rossi with a lap of 1m 56.464s, followed by his team-mate American Colin Edwards, 0.315s adrift.
A further hour of practice takes place on Friday morning ahead of the afternoon's qualifying session.
Round one of the 2007 MotoGP World Championship starts on Saturday at 15.00hrs local time (13.00 CET).
Nicky Hayden 15th 1m 57.922s
It hasn't been the way we really wanted to start the first race weekend of the season. We had a few little issues with one of the bikes this morning which cost us some time. The problems I had testing here seem to have followed me back and it feels like I'm still in that little rut with trying to get the front to steer as I want it. It's still early though, so we're confident of improvements as we go on. There are some parts of the track where I feel really good and other parts don't feel that quick. So there's a lot of work to do and we'll definitely have a busy night trying to come up with some answers. It's too early to say how the new tyre regulations will work out we'll find that out on Saturday!
Dani Pedrosa 6th 1m 56.990s
Well the season has begun and we're working hard again! Today we made some progress and were able to achieve a fairly fast lap time, though we need to make further improvements with the set-up of the bike because we are a little bit behind the leaders. It's still too early to decide how the new tyre regulations will affect us in the race and we have to work hard with Michelin tonight and tomorrow to choose the best race tyre from the ones we have selected. This will be one of the major goals for tomorrow. The condition of the track seems to be improving and we expect it to become a little cleaner still.
Makoto Tanaka - Team Manager
It looks like the other teams have improved since the last test. Nicky is still in a similar situation to the last time we were testing here in February so we need to improve the set-up on his bike in order that he feels more comfortable and able to attack. Dani was fastest here at the February test and he did a very good long run then. He's using a modified tyre from then and the results today were not conclusive. Anyway, we have many things to work on tonight ahead of the practice session and qualifying tomorrow.