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GP Week : Issue 157
at BRIEFLY » Historic Silverstone sees another little piece of history, with a special celebration for the most successful racer ever. Giacomo Agostini turns 60 on qualifying Saturday, and Yamaha is throwing a party at the track. As well as current factory riders Spies and Lorenzo, Ago’s old and bitter rival Phil Read will be at the top table. Ago still has the greatest number of GP wins, 122 to Rossi’s 105, and 15 World Championships to Angel Nieto’s 13. » Czech MotoGP privateer Karel Abraham’s tough second season just got worse, after three more crashes at Spanish tests left him a doubtful starter for next weekend’s British GP. Abraham was only just beaten by Crutchlow to Rookie of the Year last season, overturning the “spoilt rich kid” slurs, but he has struggled to adapt to the new 1000cc Ducati. Two falls at Catalunya were followed by a third at Aragon, this time breaking two fingers on his left hand. » British CRT rider James Ellison was exonerated at the Catalunya tests, when his potential replacement on the Paul Bird Racing team ran into exactly the same problems as he had ... and posted a time three seconds slower. British championship star Shane Byrne complained of chatter on the ART machine. The first two mid-season MotoGP tests took place within three days at two different circuits – and Yamaha came out on top at both of them. Honda riders Pedrosa and Stoner were off the leader-board at Catalunya, the first time since day two of the first tests that Hondas have not dominated in dry conditions this season. The factory pair opted out of the second test two days later at Aragon, because there were to be none of the new Bridgestone front tyres available. At Catalunya the day after the GP satellite rider Andrea Dovizioso set the fastest time, fractionally ahead of Ben Spies’s factory Yamaha. With satellite-team riders Hector Barbera (Ducati) and Alvaro Bautista (Honda) posting the next best times, Pedrosa and Stoner were fifth and sixth, three tenths off the pace. To put that in proportion, Lorenzo was eighth, but had won the GP by five seconds the day before, as seventh-fastest Cal Crutchlow pointed out. On Wednesday at Aragon Lorenzo’s domination was made easier by the absence of the factory Hondas. He was at the head of the other three Yamahas: Spies, Crutchlow and Dovizioso fourth. HONDA: TYRE WOES AND CHATTER The focus was on chatter problems, and while Stoner reported some progress in fixing his existing rear chatter, the new front Bridgestone “33” had introduced a new problem of chatter at the front. Said Stoner: “We didn’t work on set-up at all, just tried everything we could think of to rescue the rear chatter.” It had been improved “to a certain degree”; but he was cautious in claiming a cure. However, “the new front tyre has created more chatter,” he said; a complaint echoed by team-mate Pedrosa (see separate News story). YAMAHA: SMALL CHANGE, LITTLE DIFFERENCE A revised engine fell short of Yamaha riders’ hopes of a significant step. Oddly they disagreed on whether it improved top speed, but the consensus was that any small gains were counterbalanced by losses in other areas. Lorenzo was lukewarm, throwing the onus onto the factory for a greater step. “There wasn’t so much difference so the engineers now have to make a decision for moving for ward,” he said. Aragon was a better day for Spies, heading the time-sheets most of the day after a confidence-sapping start to the season. “To be consistently fast here and in the Catalunya test is important. I feel like I’m getting back up to the potential of the bike and myself.” DUCATI: BACK TO THE STARTING POINT With electronic innovations already tested before the race, Rossi concentrated on set-up changes, only to discover that the best was the one they’d used for the race the day before. He again tested the aluminium swing-arm at Catalunya, that he’d found had induced chatter on the first day of practice. It did so again; but ran out of time to see if Aragon triggered the same result. “It could help us for grip on acceleration,” he said. “At Mugello it proved to be advantageous.” For Hayden, the tests had been “useful, even if it was mainly confirming things.” YAMAHA TOPS DOUBLE TESTS 11 GPWEEK.com // PARTNERS: MOTOGP >>> NEWS