After managing only a single lap before rain arrived at Qatar on Sunday, Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo were finally able to make a proper start to their night test programme on Monday.
Running under floodlights in preparation for the season-opener in a month's time, the pair were able to put in a good night's work despite a late-evening break when the track was red-flagged after Dani Pedrosa and Mika Kallio fell in separate incidents.
With cool temperatures and a dirty track surface after high winds earlier, lap times were two seconds off record pace, but reigning MotoGP world champion Rossi - who finished fifth on his Bridgestone debut at Qatar 2008 - declared himself “quite happy” with second position, despite being over 0.6sec slower than Ducati's Casey Stoner.
Monday night also allowed Rossi to see just how much the YZR-M1 had changed in a year.
“Today was good because first of all we were able to test!” smiled the Italian. “I am quite happy because I was fast from the start and the bike is a lot better than this time last year. The setting is completely different after a year with Bridgestone and we seem to be in good shape.
“The lap times are quite slow compared to the race because it is cold and also the track conditions aren't perfect, but hopefully in a month's time it will be quite a bit warmer.
“We worked well today, testing some things for the engine and some electronics, and everything is helping us to improve our setting and to be faster,” he continued. “Now I hope that we have good weather between now and tomorrow night and no more wind so that the track is cleaner tomorrow and we can improve the times a bit more.”
“I think we can be happy with this 'delayed first day!'” added team manager Davide Brivio. “Valentino did many laps, and we've had positive feedback from what we've tested. Now we will try to use the final night as best we can and try to leave ourselves in good shape for the first race here.”
Lorenzo who took pole and a podium during a stunning MotoGP debut at Qatar on Michelin tyres last season, is still looking to find his confidence in the Bridgestone rubber and finished the evening in seventh position.
“Today's practice was quite hard, harder than I expected in fact,” said Lorenzo. “It was windy and the surface of the track was quite dusty and quite cold, so this has made our job of building confidence with the new Bridgestone tyres harder. To start with I was finding it quite hard to go fast in these conditions, and especially to brake later. I am still braking too early at the moment, which makes it difficult to be fast.
“We tried some new electronic systems tonight in order to reduce the wheelie, and this seems to be positive. Later on this evening we tried a new setting and I was able to improve my pace in the cold conditions. Hopefully we can continue to improve from the start tomorrow,” he added.
“Today we had more problems at the start than we expected, and Jorge was struggling to find feeling going into the turns,” confirmed team manager Daniele Romagnoli. “Later on however the team tried some new settings that allowed him to obtain a decent pace in the cooler conditions, so we were able to end the night's work on a good note.”