Rossi: A perfect start.
If Valentino Rossi's rivals thought that the reigning MotoGP World Champion would be left a lame duck this weekend, due to chatter problems, they were left sorely disappointed as the Italian started the 2006 season with his Camel Yamaha back on top of the timesheets.
Just two week's ago, Rossi was left with the tenth fastest lap time - 1.5secs from Ducati's Loris Capirossi - at the final pre-season test, also held at Jerez - venue for this weekend's Spanish Grand Prix, after severe vibration problems with his factory M1.
Rossi claimed to be "quite worried" as he was forced to pin his hopes on a solution away from the racetrack - but, if his Friday performance is anything to go by, he now has little to fear: Despite not riding in the morning session, due to a damp track, Rossi delivered 24 laps in the afternoon session - the best of which put him 0.012secs clear of Capirossi.
Onboard cameras showed that chatter still remains an issue, but Rossi is now able to ride around the problem - and further progress is expected prior to Sunday's race.
"We haven't fixed everything just yet but the Yamaha engineers came up with a few ideas to solve the vibrations we suffered during the test and they all worked," explained Rossi. "So far we have come up with a setting that allows me to ride in a better way to control the bike and, even though we still have some small vibrations, it is giving us less problems.
"This is the perfect way to start the season and I am really happy with the way the team have worked," he smiled. "This afternoon the track conditions were still not perfect so the times weren't so fast, but I think tomorrow it will be better. Tomorrow we have to keep working hard to come up with some more solutions and I am sure we will be in good shape for the race. There is already a good atmosphere and I can't wait until Sunday!"
But whilst Rossi was able to overcome the majority of his problems, team-mate Edwards suffered a setback today - the American clocking the seventh fastest time after losing valuable time with a tyre pressure problem.
"To be honest things didn't go as we would have wished today," said Colin, who was 0.6secs slower than Rossi. "After losing an hour this morning because of the weather we missed out on another 45 minutes in the afternoon. I felt something was wrong but it took a long time for us to work it out.
"Basically there was too much pressure in the tyre and once we realised that we were able to start working properly – unfortunately it was a bit too late to be reflected in the lap times. Looking across the garage we can see that the engineers have got some really good data that will definitely help us tomorrow to refine the set-up and sort out some of the problems we had in the test. It will be two important hours but I have full confidence in the job the team is doing," he added.
"It looks like we are making improvements and moving in the right direction, which is very encouraging at this early stage of the weekend. We lost this morning's session to the weather but I have to say that the engineers and the technicians made the most of the available time to make the first adjustments to the bikes," stated team director Davide Brivio. "Hopefully the bad weather is now out of the way for the rest of the weekend."
Final free practice will take place on Saturday morning with qualifying on Saturday afternoon.