Colin Edwards and Cal Crutchlow made an impressively fast return to MotoGP action in Portugal today, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team riders lapping consistently inside the top ten during the opening day of practice at the Estoril track.
Edwards ended with the sixth fastest time, the experienced American taking full advantage of unexpectedly dry and warm conditions to set a best time of 1.38.203 that put him less than 0.5s away from the top three.
Forecasts had predicted rain for the opening day of the Portuguese Grand Prix but both sessions took place on a full dry track with temperatures this afternoon nudging close to 25 degrees.
Edwards, who was fourth until the final moments of the second 45-minute session, made big progress in improving side grip with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine having made swingarm set-up changes after he was seventh fastest this morning.
Rookie Crutchlow produced another fantastic performance that not only showcased his ability learn and master new tracks quickly, but the British rider also demonstrated his determination to ride at 100 per cent despite facing a grueling physical test.
During the long break following the postponement of the Japanese Grand Prix, Crutchlow underwent surgery to solve a numbness issue in his right hand that occurred during the first two races in Qatar and Jerez. But Crutchlow was struck by a chronic arm pump issue again this morning and he needed a large build-up of fluid draining from his right arm in the Clinica Mobile ahead of the second session.
A modified handlebar position helped Crutchlow feel much more comfortable on his YZR-M1 machine this afternoon and he was unlucky not to finish inside the top seven after a brilliant performance.
He was as high as seventh in the final stages when he was unfortunate to be bumped down the order to 13th. He ended with a best time of 1.38.912 having knocked nearly 1.5s off from his best time from this morning and he was only 0.5s behind Edwards and marginally over a second away from the fastest pace set by Marco Simoncelli.
Colin Edwards 6th 1.38.203 – 42 laps
“That was a pretty good day and I’m really satisfied. We just rolled the bike off the truck and immediately I had a good feeling without having to make any changes. I’ve always gone well at this circuit and I’ve no idea why, but right out of the gate I felt comfortable on the bike and I was able to lap easily insi de the top six for most of both sessions.
“This afternoon I never used the soft tyre and I probably lost a bit of time that would have put my further up the timesheets, but that’s not a big issue on Friday. We played with the balance of the bike this afternoon a little bit and tried something different with the swingarm that gave me better side grip with the hard tyre. I wanted to be open the throttle smoothly and generate some speed and we found a good direction, so I’m happy.”
Cal Crutchlow 13th 1.38.760 – 38 laps
“I’m really happy because to be only a second off the pace on a track I’ve never seen before gives me a lot of confidence. I honestly feel I should have kept that seventh place because I made a late change to the bike and everybody went quicker. I could have gone quicker once I was back on track but I encountered a lot of traffic and it was like a 125 session! I got held up and that cost me at least a couple of tenths, which would have easily put me in the top ten. This track is much harder to learn than Jerez. It is quite bumpy and you have to be so precise with your lines that it has been quite difficult. But I’m only 0.5s behind Colin and he has a good record at this track.
“After this morning I didn’t think I’d be so fast because I was really struggling with my arm. There was a massive build-up of fluid at the end of the session that I had to get drained and I’m not sure why it has happened. I rode a motocross bike last week without any drama, but the brake pressure on a MotoGP bike is incredible. We moved the handlebars out for this afternoon and it was definitely better and I felt more confident on the brakes, but at the end I’ve got another big fluid bump on my forearm.”
[Press Release Courtesy of the Tech 3 Racing]