Testing continued today at Jerez, and despite the damp track in the morning and the continuing cool weather, lap records continued to be shattered. Once again, the battle was between Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, and while Pedrosa was quickest for a good part of the day, in the end it was The Doctor who finished the day on the top of the timesheets, with a time 1/10th of a second quicker than Pedrosa's time from yesterday, and 7/10ths faster than the lap record here.
The two title hopefuls were also a second quicker than the rest of the field, just as they were yesterday, with Dani Pedrosa setting the 3rd fastest time, a tenth off his own fastest practice time here in March. There was little separating the group behind Pedrosa, with 6/10ths covering 10 riders.
The good news in that group was for the men who had been slow yesterday: Sete Gibernau took 2 seconds off his time from yesterday, and Nicky Hayden slashed a second and a half off his lap times, putting Gibernau up to 10th place, and Hayden up to 6th, just 0.04 seconds off Jorge Lorenzo's 3rd fastest time.
What is already clear is that this is shaping up to be a two-speed championship. Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa are a cut above the rest of the field, with Casey Stoner likely to join that elite group once he returns to action. Behind the front runners, the new tire regulations may have closed the field up, with times closer together than they were last year. But with at least three riders so far ahead, the racing may once again come down to a procession for the podium, followed by some great action fighting over 4th or 5th place.
Testing now ceases, apart from the last day of testing in Phillip Island for Suzuki and Kawasaki on Friday, and the riders and teams all head off for a well-earned break during the winter test ban, which lasts from December 1st to January 20th, though the riders won't be back on the track again until February 5th in Sepang. But though the riders will be able to relax a little, the teams, and especially the R&D departments, will be working flat out on improving the bikes, and getting them ready for the new season. There's still a lot to be done.
Times from Thursday's test: