Rossi the Azzurro gets Catalan challenge underway alone

Just five days after his thrilling home victory at Mugello, Valentino Rossi was back on board at the Montmelo circuit in Catalunya today, running a one-off livery on his M1 in celebration of the Italian national football team, the 'Azzurri', and their impending European Championship campaign. Rossi's bike was complemented by his leathers, which have been designed to make him look like an 'Azzurro' himself, complete with football shorts, shirt and socks.

After heavy rain overnight the track was still wet in places this morning, especially on the long start/finish straight, which is overshadowed by the huge Montmelo grandstand. The rain meant that the notoriously slippery track had even less grip than usual and Rossi spent the day testing Bridgestone tyres and refining the setting of his M1 to suit the demands of the circuit, with improving traction a priority. He was consistently fast throughout the day, finishing second in first practice and third this afternoon, when the drier surface meant that times were well over half a second quicker than this morning.
Rossi's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo had an unfortunate opening day at his home race, crashing out of this afternoon's practice. The Spaniard was taken to hospital in Barcelona where the decision was made to withdraw from his home GP.

Valentino Rossi 3rd 1'43.090; "We've got a hard job here because this is one of the most difficult tracks for the surface; you slide so much! It's very important to try to find the best traction for the long acceleration areas, and so we've tried a lot of different tyres today in order to try to understand what's going to help us the most. The grip is worse than normal here today because of the rain overnight and so this is making it even harder, plus with Bridgestone I need quite a different riding style to last year so we have to think about this too. The setting of Mugello is more or less okay as a base but the important thing is the traction and at the moment we still need to improve this.

As for the livery it's the idea of Fiat and so we decided to make the leathers to go with the bike to make me look like a football player! I think it's quite funny and it's just to say 'in bocca al lupo' to the Italian team for the European Championships."

Davide Brivio Team Manager; "It looks like we're already quite close, although we definitely have some things we need to work on. We've focused a lot on testing tyres today because this is a very particular track and we have a lot of things to check before we can make our final decision and it will also depend a lot on how hot it gets this weekend. At the moment we're just concentrating on collecting as much information as we can and adjusting our setting accordingly. Anyway, we're quite happy with this first day's work. Our livery is something fun and it's definitely quite funny to see Valentino dressed like a football player! We want to wish 'good luck' to the Italian team for the tournament and now we hope they'll be doing the same for us on Sunday!"

Jorge Lorenzo will miss his home Grand Prix at Barcelona this weekend after a crash in this afternoon's free practice.

The Spaniard lost the front of his M1 at turn 11 just four laps into the afternoon session and slid into the gravel, before being stretchered off and taken to the circuit clinic. After undergoing an initial check-up at the track, which confirmed that there were no further injuries to the ankles which he fractured in China, the decision was made to take him to hospital in Barcelona for further examination.

Doctor Xavier Mir of the University Institut Dexeus in Barcelona commented as follows: "I can confirm that Lorenzo will not be able to compete this weekend after the tests done here at the Institut Dexeus have confirmed the following injuries:
"1. He suffered head trauma and lost consciousness. We made a neurological examination with a CAT scan and an MRI scan and from this we can confirm that there is no cranial haemotoma or haemorrage. However, he now needs to stay under observation for between 48 and 72 hours to see how this develops.
2. He sustained an injury to the 4th and 5th finger on the right hand, where he has lost some skin. He also has an abrasion of the extensor tendon. We need to see how this develops but it could be possible that he needs a small skin graft.
3. Various other bruises and grazes."

Daniele Romagnoli Team Manager; "Unfortunately today Jorge suffered another crash and it's clear that the luck is not with him at the moment. This morning we had a good session and things were going very well, we'd found a good base set up from which to work and we were quite happy with our progress. Then this afternoon started well but sadly after four laps we had another crash when Jorge lost the front at turn 11. He was going 130 km so it was quite a fast crash, but we checked the data and we can't see that he made any particular mistake. We were trying some different tyres and bike setting from the morning and we were feeling quite happy about how things were going so it's a great pity. Luckily he's avoided any further injury to his ankles, but the head injury means that he must undergo a period of rest and not take any further risks. We are very disappointed for Jorge, but the important thing now is that he has some rest and takes time to recover properly."
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