At half past ten local time this evening and with track temperatures still touching 25ºC, the MotoGP riders took to the Losail Circuit in Qatar for the first official free practice of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship.
Casey Stoner quickly established himself as the pacesetter in the single 45-minute session, finding a good early feeling for his Desmosedici GP9 despite a slippery track surface caused by sand that had caught up in the light evening breeze and blown across the circuit from the neighbouring desert.
The reduced practice time, which has been cut back this year from two sessions of an hour each on the opening day, made life tough for Stoner’s new team-mate Nicky Hayden, who suffered a problem with a sensor on one bike and then a clutch problem on both machines.
CASEY STONER (Ducati Marlboro Team) 1st (1’57.053)
“We’ve made a good start today and I’m happy because the bike feeling was really good straight away. The settings we brought from Jerez seem to be working well here too. We still need to change a couple of things to get more grip from the rear. A lot of that is due to the track conditions being really dusty but we just need to take our time and try to get it set up better for tomorrow. Hopefully the track will clean up too.”
NICKY HAYDEN – (Ducati Marlboro Team) 13th (1’59.158)
“Today wasn’t a great day. To start with I had a problem with a sensor on my first bike and I had to come back after just three laps of my first run and change to my second bike. The set-up wasn’t the same and the clutch wasn’t quite right. The 45 minutes flew by and we weren’t able to get back on the pace we set here in the test. Obviously I’m going to need both sessions tomorrow to work something out and get on the pace. Casey and Valentino are already looking really quick but we’re not too far off the group behind them. Hopefully with the right changes to the bike tomorrow we can get amongst them.”
Circuit Record: Casey Stoner (Ducati – 2008), 1’55.153, 168.193 Km/h
Best Pole: Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha – 2008), 1’53.927, 170.003 Km/h