New surface propels Lorenzo to record pace in Australia

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Jorge Lorenzo drew first blood on a new track surface at the spectacular Phillip Island circuit today, the reigning world champion topping the MotoGP practice timesheets in Australia.

The factory Yamaha rider set a best pace of 1.28.961 to smash Nicky Hayden’s 2008 lap record of 1.30.059.

Lorenzo, who could lose his premier class crown to Honda rival Marc Marquez in Sunday’s 27-lap race, was just under 0.3s outside of Casey Stoner’s outright Phillip Island track record of 1.28.665.

Lorenzo finished 0.294s clear of Marquez, who escaped injury in a heavy fall at Lukey Heights in the early stages of FP2, but he said the impressive lap times were down to the improved track surface.

A strong wind blew around the coastal track today but Lorenzo was delighted with the new surface and he told MCN: “It is all about the surface because without the new asphalt I would probably be one second slower. It is not much merit to say I was close to Casey’s record.

"The grip is a little bit better but the difference is it smoother with much less bumps. It has improved by 95% but it is just in Turn 6 there is still a big bump. Apart from this it is much better and it is much funnier to ride here and it is a pleasure. Before with the wind and the bumps it was very difficult.”

If Marquez scores eight points more in Sunday’s race than Lorenzo then the 20-year-old rookie will become the youngest rider in history ever to capture the premier class crown.

Lorenzo though believes that his factory YZR-M1 machine is a much more competitive package than at the Motorland Aragon and Sepang and he said: “It is true that Cal (Crutchlow) and Valentino (Rossi) were not so bad but second and third was Honda, so I don’t think they are so bad here.

"We have to look at ourselves and the truth is I feel more competitive than in Aragon and Sepang and that’s what counts. But I don’t think that the Honda is bad at this track.”

Lorenzo believes cooler track temperatures are behind his impressive performance and he said he will focus on front-end stability improvements tomorrow to cope with the windy conditions.

He added: “There is less braking and it is a more flowing track and the weather is perfect. Like this or a little bit colder is perfect for us, so maybe hotter is worse. Without the wind maybe we could be much more comfortable.

"Our bike is suffering a bit with the wind. We will try and improve the front because of the wind to try and make the bike more stable and to have more contact with the front.”

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt