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GP Week : Issue 146
Valentino Rossi took until the final day of the Jerez tests to move ahead of his team-mate Nicky Hayden. But thoughts that he might be deliberately underplaying his hand were scotched by his post-test comments: “Sixth place is this bike’s best potential. Step by step we are getting better ... but it will take some races before I believe we can improve,” he said. The problem was as ever: “Understeer remains an issue,” he said. But there were reasons for optimism, after having taken a wrong turning at the second Sepang test. Now they had regained direction, he said, and he was confident they could improve matters with the new all-aluminium chassis. There were two problems at Jerez. The first was a hangover from the unsuccessful second Sepang test. “We started from a bad position – we had to go back to the settings from the first test,” he said. The second was losing the middle of three days to rain: “This bike is only eight days old. Because yesterday was wasted, it meant today I was working on settings rather than lap times,” he said. In the end, he had regained some confidence, enough to promise further improvement as race miles build up Hayden placed eighth, the pair sandwiching Tech 3 Yamaha recruit Andrea Dovizioso. The American was catching up from his own delay. “W ith my injury affecting the last tests, we needed to squeeze a winter’s worth of testing into this weekend, and yesterday was basically a wash,” he said. He’d run 91 laps (one more than Rossi) as he went through the learning process: “I thought I could go a bit quicker but I struggled a little with the fast corners. We’ve clearly got some work to do. I definitely feel better after coming here and getting to ride at close to 100 per cent and getting to understand the bike a bit more.” The satellite Ducatis of Hector Barbera and Karel Abraham were 11th and 12th, last of the factory bikes. With MotoGP control-tyre suppliers Bridgestone still finalising designs for their new-generation safety-oriented tyres at the final test, there was a widely mixed response to the latest choice offered at the track. The new front tyre – dubbed ‘21’ against the earlier ‘24’ – clearly suited the Yamahas better than the Hondas, with both factory Honda riders complaining of braking and corner-entry stability problems. But while some riders spoke of a rapid performance drop and concerns with race endurance, others took the opposite view. Chatter problems seem confined to the Hondas, although Stoner was frustrated to find that the problem was much reduced at the smoother and less grippy Spanish circuit, thwarting his hopes of finding a solution before the start of the season. “We’ve had that bad chatter in the first few tests, and we don’t have it here. I think it’s the character of the track ... the other three tracks we tested at we had a lot of chatter. Only on the last day did we feel a bit.” “But it doesn’t just disappear. The other three tracks were very different from each other. It could be casing, it could be compound. As soon as they gave us the tyre, and especially in Valencia, when we went from last year’s tyre to this year’s what little chatter we had just doubled, tripled. “It’s making things a little bit complicated ... we’ll have to wait to a race weekend to get it sorted.” Asked about the problem, all the Yamaha riders simply looked puzzled. None had experienced the problem – but several raised the question of a rapid performance drop-off, from tyres that had fully solved last year’s problems of a slow warm-up. According to Yamaha Tech 3 rider Andrea Dovizioso: “The safety improved a lot - quick warm-up. But I think it will be a problem at the end of the race, the drop-off looks big. I made 15 laps in Malaysia, and I felt that then. “You have some more grip in the first laps, then it drops immediately. Before it never did this. Sometimes the faster laps were at the end of the race. It won’t be like that now.” Factory Yamaha rider Ben Spies agreed. “I think they’re definitely going to have more of a drop than last year: you can feel the bike moving around more. But for me, that’s fine. I’m happy when the bike is loose.” From the Honda camp, Dani Pedrosa expressed the same fears, but team- mate Stoner completely disagreed. “We’ve done way over race length, and we’ve found we’ve got a lot better endurance on tyres than last year. Considering on 1000s we’ve got a lot more torque it’s more gentle on the tyres. We’re actually able to run on a softer compound for a lot longer length of time. “But the tyre everyone seems to prefer I think has stability issues ... especially when people start braking hard in the race. People are already saying this a little bit ... when it comes to race time we’re going to hear a lot more.” DUCATI STILL PLAYING CATCH-UP Rossi is not sand-bagging: ‘Sixth is this bike’s potential ’ Mixed response to new-generation Bridgestones CHATTer, SqUIrmING AND eNDUrANCe 11 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> news