After the briefest of respites during MotoGP practice at Estoril, the weather returned to torment the Moto2 riders for their third session of free practice. The return of the rain saw Ant West in his element, the Australian wet-weather master topping the timesheets throughout the session and taking top spot on his MZ. West had some stiff competition from JIR's Alex de Angelis, though, the man from San Marino finishing just under two tenths behind the Australian.
Kenan Sofuoglu was once again impressive on the Technomag CIP bike, the World Supersport champion ending in 3rd for the second time in three sessions. In 4th was Tech 3 rider Raffaele de Rosa, clearly much more at ease in the wet than he has been in the dry. Just as in MotoGP, the session was marred by numerous crashes, though so far everyone appears to have escaped relatively unharmed.
The forecast for this afternoon is that the rain will continue, and qualifying looks like being a very damp affair.
Jorge Lorenzo topped the timesheets during a wet third session of free practice at Estoril, despite crashing out in the final minutes of the session. The Fiat Yamaha rider had started slowly, but was soon matching the pace of his teammate and bitter rival Valentino Rossi. The two men swapped the top spot for the latter half of the session, before Lorenzo finally emerged on top.
Rossi ended the session in 2nd, nearly six tenths down, and nearly the same amount again ahead of Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso. Casey Stoner, who had led early until he too crashed midway through the session, eventually reemerged from the pits to finish in 4th, ahead of Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards and San Carlo Gresini's Marco Simoncelli.
The session was marred by several nasty highsides: Both Lorenzo and Stoner crashed at the same location, towards the end of the final Parabolica corner, while Stoner's Marlboro Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden suffered an eerily similar crash at Turn 2. Lorenzo and Stoner walked away unhurt, despite being flicked viciously off the bike, while Hayden limped away a little worse for wear.
The weather continues to be a major factor at Estoril, with overnight rain continuing into the first session of practice for the 125cc class. The timesheets were topped by a couple of familiar names: Bancaja Aspar's Bradley Smith, who has fastest in the torrential downpour of FP1, and nearly a second behind Smith, Andalucia Cajasol's Alberto Moncayo, who was fastest on Friday afternoon.
Smith's teammate Nico Terol set the 3rd fastest time, while Avant Mitsubushi Ajo rider Sandro Cortese was 4th fastest, ahead of Moncayo's teammate Danny Webb and German Interwetten Honda rider Marcel Schrotter.
While much of the current focus in the MotoGP paddock is on 2011, and the impending rider switches in the paddock - including Valentino Rossi's move to Ducati, Casey Stoner's switch to Honda and Ben Spies' promotion to the factory Yamaha team - there is a bigger change on the horizon, the return to 1000cc in the MotoGP class, the arrival of the 250cc Moto3 class and the introduction of the CRT concept, where 1000cc production engines will be allowed to compete in prototype chassis in the hands of private teams. These seismic changes are in the hands of the Grand Prix Commission, consisting of the manufacturers' association MSMA, the teams' representative IRTA, the FIM sanctioning body and Dorna, the commercial rights holders.
At Estoril, MotoMatters.com had the chance to spend 10 minutes with Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta, and ask a few questions about the changes due to happen in 2012. We were particularly interested in the relationship between Dorna and the MSMA, given the fact that the contract between the two parties is also up for renewal at the start of the 2012 season. So that's where we started:
Testing concluded Friday for the World Superbike series at Aragon, with Max Biaggi finally beating the time set by Carlos Checa on the Althea Ducati on day 1. The WSBK champion had spent all three days working on the setup of the new Brembo brakes for his Alitalia Aprilia, before turning his attention to putting in a fast lap at the end of the test. Tom Sykes was 2nd fastest on day 3, though still not quite as fast as Checa had been on day 1, the Yorkshireman's 2011 spec ZX-10R showing a lot of promise for the new season.
Leon Haslam finally put together a good lap on the BMW, the Bavarian factory pouring a lot of resources into working on the bike, their hard work paying off with an improvement of a full second off the 2010 runner up's previous lap time. Michel Fabrizio ended day 3 in 4th on the Alstare Suzuki, over a second off Biaggi's time.
Unofficial results, courtesy of WorldSBK.com:
The threat of poor weather had almost completely disappeared by the time the Moto2 riders took to the track for their afternoon FP2 session, and the times set reflected the improvement. Conditions remained tricky to the very end, though, with a line dry enough to use slicks on only appearing at the end.
It was Fimmco Speed Up's Gabor Talmacsi who made best use of the conditions, maintaining his position at the top of the timesheets right to the end of the session. The Hungarian held nearly four tenths of a second advantage over the two men who had fought over the 2010 Moto2 title all year, Mapfre Aspar's Julian Simon edging championship winner Toni Elias into 3rd. In 4th, continuing his impressive debut in the Moto2 class, is Kenan Sofuoglu on the Technomag CIP bike, his time made all the more impressive by the fact that Sofuoglu set it on wets. Sofuoglu's performance has fired demand for his services even more than at the start of the weekend, the Turk currently gaining interest from a number of teams, as well as already holding a firm offer from the Technomag squad. If he matches this performance on race day, the line to the door of his motorhome could grow even longer.
With skies clearing and the weather surprising everyone by improving radically, the MotoGP riders finally got a chance to put in some serious laps at Estoril in the second session of free practice. The session started out in a light rain and on a sodden track, and Casey Stoner sped to the top of the timesheets, firmly in control for much of practice. But as the sun came out and something approaching a dry line appeared, others started to make inroads on Stoner's position.
At the end of practice, it was Fiat Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo who set the quickest time, ending FP2 just over a tenth ahead of Stoner's Marlboro Ducati teammate Nicky Hayden. Hayden split the Fiat Yamaha teammates, Valentino Rossi over a third of a second behind Lorenzo in 3rd, while Rossi was himself the filling in a Marlboro Ducati sandwich, with Casey Stoner ending up 4th.
Behind the front four loomed a large gap, with Ben Spies nearly two thirds of a second behind on the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, while San Carlo Gresini's Marco Melandri had an outstanding afternoon, ending up 6th, just behind Spies.
With the weather improving at Estoril, the riders in the 125cc class finally got a shot at putting in a decent number of laps. All except championship leader Marc Marquez, that is, who crashed early in the session, destroying his Red Bull Ajo Derbi and missing the remainder of practice.
At the end of the day, it was Alberto Moncayo who set the quickest time, the Andalucia Cajasol rider having been fast in the morning session. Moncayo finished a second ahead of Johann Zarco of the WTR San Marino team, who in turn was fractionally faster than a trio of championship contenders, Bancaja Aspar's Nico Terol leading Blusens-STX rider Tito Rabat, who was in turn a few hundredths quicker than Tuenti Derbi man Pol Espargaro.
The atrocious weather let up a little late in the morning at Estoril, just enough to allow the large part of the Moto2 field to brave the rain and wind and lap the Portuguese circuit. Fastest man at the end of the day - despite an impressive crash at he end of the main straight - was Marc VDS Racing's Scott Redding, the British rider topping the timesheets by over 1.6 seconds.
In 2nd place came rain specialist Ant West aboard the MZ, but perhaps the biggest surprise of the session was Kenan Sofuoglu's 3rd fastest time. The FP1 session was the 2010 World Supersport champion first outing at the Portuguese track, and his first laps in anger aboard the Technomag CIP Suter machine, after a brief test at Albacete earlier this week. Sofuoglu was two seconds slower than Redding, but just a few hundredths ahead of Redding's teammate Hector Faubel.
The break in the weather looks to be just temporary, though. The rain is expected to turn heavy again this afternoon, from around the time the bikes are scheduled to get back on track for FP2.
The 2010 MotoGP season has been a remarkably dry and sunny one, with only a couple of sessions run in the wet. The weather gods appear to be making up for that lack of rain all in one go at Estoril, with the rain and wind lashing the Portuguese circuit for the first day of practice.
So poor have been the conditions that Race Direction has decided to change the schedule for Saturday. With the Estoril GP originally scheduled to go back to four sessions of 45 minutes, practice had been reinstated on Friday morning, but the positively diluvian conditions meant that most of FP1 was lost to rain. As a result, practice on Saturday will be back to one hour sessions for MotoGP, for both FP3 and qualifying. Moto2 will also get extra practice, FP3 being extended to an hour on Saturday morning.
The weather is expected to be poor this afternoon and on Saturday, but still good enough to ride, unlike conditions on Friday morning. The Race Direction press release containing the new schedule for Saturday is shown below:
RACE DIRECTION OFFICIAL RELEASE
Change of Saturday’s practice schedule
Estoril, 29th October 2010
The Race Direction has decided that due to adverse weather conditions today in Estoril, the schedule for tomorrow (Saturday) will be as follows:
The first session of practice for the MotoGP class was almost completely lost to rain, with only the bravest souls venturing out onto the track. Hiroshi Aoyama was the only rider who actually posted a time, though Aleix Espargaro and Carlos Checa both went out, but they came straight back in again, though Checa did put in an entire lap near the end of the session.
Thunder and lightning added to the festivities, and the wind has picked up even further. It looks like the entire day could be lost to the weather at Estoril.
Practice got underway at Estoril in light rain, but the weather quickly took a turn for the worse, the rain becoming very intense by the end of the first session of practice, the 125cc class. Bradley Smith topped the timesheets in the session, putting in a fast lap early on, but the final standings were relatively meaningless, with a difference of over 21 seconds from fastest to slowest. British rider Danny Webb and his Andalucia Cajasol teammate Alberto Moncayo took 2nd and 3rd, ahead of Stipa Molenaar's Randy Krummenacher, but Krummenacher was already over 5 seconds slower than Smith's fastest lap.
Forecast for the rest of the day is for strong winds and storms, calling into question the usefulness the rest of the day.
If there is one rider who somehow manages to generate debate among MotoGP fans, it is Casey Stoner, almost all of it completely undeserved. After the Phillip Island round, controversy raged again across internet forums about Stoner's dominant victory at his home Grand Prix, centering on two subjects: Whether Stoner had switched the electronics off entirely for the Phillip Island race, and whether or not Stoner was sliding both front and rear round the track, or just the rear.
To settle the argument, we went straight to the horse's mouth, and cornered Casey after the pre-event press conference at Estoril. Here's what the Marlboro Ducati rider had to say about the race at Australia:
MotoMatters.com: There's a lot of talk going around that you switch the electronics off at Philip Island. You always use less electronics than most of the other riders, so can you explain exactly what did happen?
Testing continued on Thursday for the World Superbike grid at the Motorland Aragon circuit, and with Carlos Checa having taken his leave early to head to Estoril for an outing aboard the Pramac Ducati MotoGP bike, it was Max Biaggi's turn to top the timesheets. Biaggi took nearly seven tenths of his time from Wednesday, after having spent the session testing new brakes from Brembo. The Italian judged them to be a big improvement, but the increase in braking power made the bike difficult to control on the brakes. More setup work will be required, according to the Italian, which will continue tomorrow.
The absence of precise timing saw four men tie for the 2nd fastest time, Alstare Suzuki's Michel Fabrizio, BMW's Troy Corser, Pata Aprilia's Nori Haga and the Kawasaki of Tom Sykes. Biaggi's Alitalia Aprilia teammate Leon Camier was just a tenth of a second slower, while Leon Haslam was 1.3 seconds slower than Max Biaggi.
Testing concludes on Friday.
World Superbike day 2 testing times, courtesy of WorldSBK.com:
With the World Superbike paddock mostly reassembled at Aragon, for the three-day WSBK test there, the teams are taking the opportunity to make any announcements which they still have outstanding. Most of those - such as the announcement earlier that James Toseland would be riding for the BMW Italia team - are merely confirmation of news which had leaked out earlier, and the press release from the factory-supported Kawasaki WSBK and WSS teams was no exception.
In it, Kawasaki confirmed that they will be running three riders in the PBM Kawasaki squad, with Spaniard Joan Lascorz joining 2010 riders Tom Sykes and Chris Vermeulen for 2011. Lascorz was outstanding all year in World Supersport until his season-ending crash at Silverstone, but his early performance was good enough to earn promotion to World Superbikes.
Taking Lascorz' place in WSS is Australian rider Broc Parkes, who will be joined by another Spaniard, David Salom. Parkes had a disjointed season in WSBK and WSS in 2010, starting out with the Echo CRS team, then later switching to the Kawasaki squad in place of the injured Lascorz. Salom spent 2010 aboard a Triumph Daytona 675 triple, and was impressive enough to earn the Kawasaki ride.
Below is the text of the Kawasaki press release: