The second Free Practice session at Valencia threw up some interesting, but rather deceptive results. While everyone's focus was on Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden, it was Ducati man Loris Capirossi who stole the show. Capirex headed the timesheets for nearly all of the session, only briefly deposed by flying Frenchman Randy de Puniet on the Kawasaki. De Puniet's fast lap was the first obvious sign of qualifying tires being used, though surprisingly, only the top three riders went for an all-out shot with qualifiers on.
The fast trio's times belied a deeper story: where this morning was marked by gamesmanship, with Rossi and Hayden swapping fast times, this afternoon the teams settled down to the hard work of finding a race set-up. The session started with Valentino Rossi putting in a sequence of laps which amounted to nearly half the distance of Sunday's race. The most worrying thing, from Honda's perspective, was the incredible consistency of his lap times: after two laps warming the tires, he set a long string of 1:33s, all very close to his race lap record from 2003. Hayden answered later in the session, putting in a time 1/4 of a second faster than Rossi's fastest, but in a shorter lap sequence. Measuring performances against each other is always a risky thing to do on the Friday before the race, but this afternoon went to Hayden, by an edge. But things are very close.
Not so close at the front, where Loris Capirossi put in a decent fastest lap of 1:32.220, followed 2/10ths behind by Randy de Puniet, and by Chris Vermeulen another 1/2 second slower. Nicky Hayden is in 4th, the first of the riders not on qualifiers, followed by two Honda men: Casey Stoner, and Hayden's team mate Dani Pedrosa. Valentino Rossi took the 7th time, ahead of John Hopkins, Shinya Nakano and Troy Bayliss. There was less than a second between 4th place Hayden and 16th place Carlos Checa.