Valentino Rossi has told MCN he is already convinced he has made the right choice to ditch Michelin after he made an ominously fast and impressive debut on Bridgestone tyres in Jerez today.
Rossi’s long-awaited first ride on the Japanese rubber saw him clock a best time of 1.40.514 to post the third fastest time in Spain today (Tuesday).
Such was the hype surrounding Valentino Rossi’s Bridgestone debut that even Dorna boss Carmelo Ezpeleta made a surprise appearance in the paddock this afternoon.
Rossi was just 0.293s slower than fastest rider and new world champion Casey Stoner as he completed 56 laps on Bridgestone tyres. And he was only 0.159sec slower than second placed Dani Pedrosa.
The Italian’s best time came as he only used standard Bridgestone rubber while he gains experience on the new tyres following his controversial move from Michelin at the end of a disastrous 2007 campaign.
His best time was 0.4sec faster than his best Michelin time of 1.40.905 set in the Spanish MotoGP in March, which was the fastest time in the 27-lap race.
He needed only 18 laps to break into the 1.41 bracket and his best lap came in an 11-lap stint this afternoon. His best time of 1.40.514 came on the fourth lap of his long run, which also included one other 1.40 lap and six others in the 1.41 bracket.
Later in the day his last five laps were all in the 1.41 bracket, even Valentino Rossi declared he is only 90 per cent fit, with the Fiat Yamaha rider still in some pain with the broken right hand he suffered in a massive crash during qualifying for the final race in Valencia earlier this month.
Valentino Rossi is still under contract to Michelin until the end of November and is banned from making any direct comparison with Bridgestone, but the 28-year-old told MCN: “I can’t say too much and make a comparison because I am under contract with Michelin so we have to stay quiet. But I am happy.
“It’s early to say but I am very happy about my choice.
“The first impression is good and I am happy because I am not at 100 per cent. I have some pain in the hand, especially in braking when I have to push and in the left corners when I’m leaned over it is a little bit difficult to control the throttle.
“I think I am around 90 per cent. I’m happy because this is not a great track for Bridgestone. But the feeling is good.
“Having these tyres is not like having a magic wand to fix our problems but the stability in acceleration is good and I am fast for the whole day from this morning to the afternoon with some different conditions.
“I stayed always in the first five and I’m happy. We have a lot of work to do with some problems to fix.”
Valentino Rossi said the performance of the Bridgestone tyres was exactly what he anticipated having carefully monitored the likes of Casey Stoner during 2007.
“The tyres are exactly what I expected. Sincerely following the other Bridgestone riders this year, I expected to have this feeling with my bike. The tyres fit very well from the beginning.
“We don’t have to work very much on the setting and it’s a good start. Now we have to improve and to understand what we need but it is positive,” said Rossi, who believes he will have to alter his riding style slightly to adjust to the Bridgestone front tyre.
“I was working with the standard tyres because it is the first test and we work a little bit on the front but mainly on the rear. The front I have to understand a little more because I have to ride a little bit differently.
“You can use some different lines but I wasn’t pushing at the maximum on the front. The rear is positive and I am happy and able to go fast for some long runs with used tyres,” said Rossi, who had complained about endurance with Michelin during several races in 2007.
Valentino Rossi said the bigger step appeared to come from the rear tyre, with sources claiming that his exit speed, which was being monitored by Kawasaki, showed Rossi almost identical to Casey Stoner’s factory Ducati coming out of the final corner.
“For our bike and for me the bigger step is the rear at this moment. Today I didn’t go at the very limit with the front so I don’t understand clearly but the rear for me is more clear, but I think that Michelin anyway work a lot for reduce the gap and I think this year it is more balanced,” added Rossi, who rode his Valencia-spec YZR-M1 throughout the whole day, confirming he expected to test some new electronics over the final two days.