Opinions about the proposal for a single tire manufacturer are still divided among the riders, but there is one thing that all of them agree on: They are going to miss the breathtaking sensation of pushing the astonishingly grippy qualifying tires to their very limits. Nicky Hayden has said the tires are so good, that "you get off the bike and you're shaking." For riders so used to being right on the edge to be shaking takes something quite remarkable.
So there was some disappointment when the weather on Saturday started off as gray and wet as it had been on Friday. It looked like the last chance to use qualifiers might be gone, but as the afternoon started, the rain stopped, and the track started to dry out.
The track filled quickly once qualifying started. With the race expected to be dry, teams and riders were anxious to find a race setting that might work on Sunday. After three drenched sessions of free practice, they had learned more than they needed to know about riding in the wet.
The track was still cool, and spotty in patches, so times came down slowly. It took 5 laps before the times even got into the 1'34s, Randy de Puniet the first to crack that barrier on his LCR Honda. De Puniet was joined seconds later by Loris Capirossi, then Shinya Nakano, the Japanese Gresini Honda rider taking half a second off the Frenchman's time, with a lap of 1'34.437.
Three minutes later, Nakano's time was beaten, Nicky Hayden taking over the top spot with a 1'34.351. The Kentucky Kid had been fastest in all three wet sessions, and was showing he was quick in the dry too. Hayden was on a strong run, going on to take 3/10ths off his time on the next lap, with a time of 1'34.009.
His team mate, with whom Hayden had been engaged in a war of words by proxy, was not about to let Hayden run away with the session, and with 15 minutes gone, set the 2nd fastest time with a lap of 1'34.195.