Valentino Rossi finished the opening day of the Spanish MotoGP in a much stronger position than one year ago, the Movistar Yamaha rider placing fifth rather than 13th at Jerez.
“I'm quite satisfied about today because I was competitive from the beginning and especially because I have a good feeling with the bike. said Rossi, speaking in the team hospitality on Friday evening.
“This morning I was quite strong, more-or-less everywhere, and I never changed the tyres. So I always rode with the used tyres, also to understand my pace after more than 15-20 laps. Because here the degradation, especially on the rear is quite high. A lot of wheelspin. [For me] the tyres spin, but the feeling remains good to ride and also the pace is quite good.”
Rossi, who had been third in the morning, finished the day 0.7s behind team-mate Jorge Lorenzo. Honda's Marc Marquez, leading the championship after winning the last two rounds, was next best (+0.345s).
“I think at this moment the guys with the best pace are Lorenzo and Marquez. They are very fast like always. But I'm not so far,” Rossi declared. “I feel good with the bike. Last year I was more in trouble for find the right balance. Looks like this year we work well with the team and we can be strong from the beginning.”
Lorenzo tried the alternative 2016 M1, with the fuel tank at the rear, during today's pair of 45-minute sessions.
“Today we divided a little bit the work, because Jorge tried the different tank and I tried a different setting,” Rossi said. “I'm happy about my performance, about my bike. I don't know exactly the comment of Jorge about the tank. Later when I go to the box I will try to understand if tomorrow we test.”
Could the different tank location help reduce wheel spin? “Can be yes,” Rossi replied. “But here the amount of spin is very high I think for everybody.”
The amount of wheelspin is not helped by the stiffer rear tyre construction introduced by Michelin after Scott Redding's Argentina incident. But Rossi feels wheelspin has always been a characteristic of this track and, in terms of the stiffer tyre, considers it a necessary price to pay for safety.
“For me, very much it is the track [causing the wheelspin] because with Bridgestone also we struggle a lot for traction here,” he explained. “The harder casing is worse for the traction. But you know, safety first. It is important to be 100% safe. We cannot risk the tyre explode, so this construction have a little bit less performance and a bit more spin. But it is good to ride. So if it's good for safety, I agree to this.”
Another current safety issue is the use of winglets, which are now present on the factory machines of all five MotoGP manufacturers after Suzuki and Aprilia debuted their designs on Friday at Jerez.
“I know that all the manufacturers try to speak together to decide if continue with the wings or not. I'm open to everything, but sincerely speaking for me is better don't have the wings.”
But from a performance point of view, Rossi can feel the difference.
“For me the wings help a little bit for the front contact, so when you open all the throttle the front tyre touch [the asphalt] a little bit more. Also, for example, for the last corners here, if you have a bit more contact on the front tyre it helps. It's just for that.
“This morning I tried without and this afternoon with, and I think I will continue with the wings that give a small help.”
Rossi suffered his first fall since Aragon 2014 last time out in Texas, leaving him 33-points behind Marquez. Rossi finished a distant third, behind Lorenzo and Marquez, at Jerez last season.
By Peter McLaren