Qatar : Day One
The opening day of action for this year's MotoGP championship saw the top eight riders of the day all lap under the official circuit record set by Valentino Rossi in 2006.
Casey Stoner, one of four riders completely new to Bridgestone tyres this season
and Suzuki's John Hopkins, who enters his fourth MotoGP season as a Bridgestone-shod rider, both set times under the 1m57s mark to take third and fourth spots in Thursday's combined classification.
Stoner's team-mate and triple race winner last season, Loris Capirossi, kicked off his 2007 campaign in eighth place sandwiched between Bridgestone newcomers Marco Melandri and Toni Elias, who ended the opening day in seventh and ninth positions for the Honda Gresini team.
Pramac D'Antin's Alex Barros led a trio of riders on Bridgestones within 0.06s of each other, the Brazilian taking 11th place ahead of Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen in 12th and Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet in 13th. Alex Hofmann's best time was good enough for tenth place in the morning session but, unable to improve on his time in the afternoon, he ended the day in 16th position, one place in front of Kawasaki's Olivier Jacque in 17th.
Tyre Talk with Tohru Ubukata – Bridgestone Motorsport - Manager, Motorcycle Race Tyre Development
What was the plan for today's opening practice sessions ?
“We have used today's session to evaluate the two different specifications of tyre that we have provided our teams for this weekend's GP.
Based on the results from the test a few weeks ago, we developed a medium and a hard specification tyre for front and rear which our teams have within their allocation of 31 tyres. All five of our teams have conducted an initial evaluation of the two specifications with pleasing results. Both specs have shown a good performance and durability but we will use tomorrow morning's practice to finalise the precise tyre for Saturday's race.”
What improvements have been seen compared to last year's GP ?
“The biggest difference has been the improved track conditions. In previous years we have seen quite a lot of initial degradation on both front and rear tyres due to the nature of the track on the opening day. This year, the circuit seems to offer more grip and we have been able to get up to speed quickly. That in turn has allowed our teams to get straight to work on bike set-up, so we have accomplished a lot of productive work.”
How did the scanning procedures work on Wednesday ?
“For the first time, we had to carry out the tyre barcode scanning with FIM and I think it went smoothly considering it was out first proper experience of this procedure. We submitted the final choices to FIM yesterday after a busy day for our fitters and technicians, but all things considered everything worked well today.”
How have qualifying tyres been allocated ?
“Based on our advice, each of our five teams has allotted enough tyres to carry out two qualifying runs in tomorrow's qualifying practice session. Until then, we will continue with our race preparations by carrying out long runs in the morning using the preferred tyre specification from today.”