Hotels are in short supply in this part of Spain. So, like many of the GP paddock regulars, Cycle World Contributing Photographer Andrew Wheeler rented a flat in Beceite, a small town located less than an hour from the circuit. He offered me a room, home-cooked meals and a lift to and from the circuit every day. While that may seem like a long commute, Wheeler and his turbo-diesel rental made short work of the two-lane roads draped across fields of olive trees (Spain exports 300 tons of olive oil annually).
Oil on the track from a Moto3 crash delayed MotoGP practice by more than an hour. When the session finally began, only four prototypes—Nicky Hayden, Rossi, Barbera and Karel Abraham, all on Ducatis—ventured onto the damp track. A dry line eventually appeared, but, for most, the session was lost.
Second free practice was run in full wet conditions. Beginning the session with a setting he had used in similar conditions in Germany and Italy, Spies topped the time sheets with a 2:00.219 lap. Pedrosa, Lorenzo, Hayden and Dovizioso completed the top five. Lorenzo was the only rider to make more than one circuit in the 2-minute-flat range. Pedrosa posted the highest top speed, 205.372 mph, which was more than 3 mph faster than his closest competitor, Dovizioso.
“I wouldn’t say it was a shock to be quickest today,” said Spies, “but I was a bit surprised that we were as comfortable as we were. That’s important because we can’t tell what’s going to happen the next couple of days [with the weather].
“I thought the track was going to be quite slick in the rain, but it was good and consistent. We didn’t change anything; we just did laps and got comfortable with the track. We have a good dry setting from when we tested here a couple weeks ago. So, either way, dry or rain, we have a good bike this weekend. Now, we just need to get the results on Sunday.”
I also spoke with Ten Kate Honda World Superbike star Jonathan Rea, a two-race stand-in for injured Casey Stoner. Eighth in his MotoGP debut at Misano, Rea is struggling to adapt to the Bridgestone tires. “The tires don’t give much feedback,” he said. “Their potential and performance is so high that you don’t actually understand where the limit is with the front tire. You have to push it so hard. You have to forget about everything you grew up learning and doing, and put so much trust in something that you don’t know what it’s going to give back.”
Rea tested the RC213V at Aragon in early September, completing 131 laps over two days. “I ended the test feeling like a GP rider,” he said. “If the race is dry, I’ve got a setup that we’re comfortable with. It would just be nice to have some dry laps under my belt to get my brain up to speed again with the GP bike.”
I joked with Rea that he might have 20 minutes on Sunday morning to get a feel for the bike in dry conditions. He smiled politely.
Bridgestone brought asymmetrical rear slicks to Aragon for the first time this year. According to a company spokesperson, the rubber on the left side of the tire is only one step harder than that used on the right. In practice, some riders, including Rea, were asking for greater stability from the treaded wet front. Bridgestone doesn’t make an intermediate tire.
Saturday morning’s third free practice was a repeat of FP2—cold and wet—with Pedrosa posting the quickest lap (2:00.490), followed by Lorenzo (2:00.624), Spies (2:00.712), Dovizioso (2:00.727) and Stefan Bradl (2:.00.823). This time, Spies was only rider to knock out more than one lap (four) in the 2-minute-flat range. Neither Pedrosa nor Spies was able to duplicate his best lap time from Friday afternoon.