Valentino Rossi boosted by practice pace

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Valentino Rossi quickly brushed off the crushing disappointment of his first lap exit in his home race in Mugello recently to give himself a huge confidence boost on the opening day of practice in Catalunya.

The nine-times world champion topped the practice timesheets for the first time in 2013 after a best lap of 1.42.297 put him just 0.049s clear of factory Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo.

Rossi, who is chasing an 11th MotoGP podium at the Catalunya track in Sunday’s 25-lap race, said the key to his hopes of only a second rostrum in 2013 will be securing a good grid position in qualifying tomorrow.

The 34-year-old has only qualified inside the top six once so far this season and he has only managed one second row start in five races.

Having struggled to improve his pace in the shortened 15-minute qualifying, Rossi’s best time today came courtesy of a dummy qualifying run at the end of FP2 to check his pace on the soft compound Bridgestone rear tyre.

He said: “I wanted to see if I can improve my time in one lap with the softer tyre and it was more like a test for qualifying.  But to stay on top tomorrow I will have to go faster and possibly into the 41s.”

There are no points awarded on Friday but today’s result was still a morale boost for Rossi, who hasn’t finished on the podium since the opening round of the campaign in Qatar back in April.

Rossi said: “I am very happy with this result but I know it is just Friday. But to stay in front is great feeling. In the last races I have improved my performance over the weekend compared to Friday and for sure to be on the front row is another taste.

It is just Friday and we have to improve. There are some sections where I can do better, especially T1 and T3 but I am very, very fast in T2 and T4.  Here it will be important to have a good set-up for a good race pace and also the tyre decision for the race.  I used the hard today and at the end just the soft while Jorge did the opposite and stayed on the soft for the whole session.

It is difficult to decide and the most important will be to get a good position on the grid but also to make the right tyre choice and have a good setting to keep a rhythm.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt