The second session of free practice at Laguna Seca took place under considerably better conditions than this morning's FP1. The sun shone, displacing the fog which had delayed practice in the morning, and warming things up nicely.
Conditions may have been different, but the outcome was exactly the same. Once again, Casey Stoner thoroughly dominated qualifying practice, leading by at least half a second for almost all of the session. He saved the last to best, taking another 0.1 of a second off his track record, set in the morning. Stoner is now 0.466 faster than his own pole record, set in 2007.
But he's not just quick for a single lap. Stoner was running constantly in the low 1'22s, about half a second quicker than the next fastest lapper, Valentino Rossi, who was running consistent high 1'22s. At this rate, there's going to be a fantastic battle for 2nd place.
Nicky Hayden improved vastly this afternoon, setting a string of 1'23 second laps, and snatching 2nd spot in the afternoon with a 1'22.634. The problem is, of course, that even Hayden's single fast lap is 8/10ths of a second slower than Stoner's, and 8/10ths is a lot at a short and tight track like Laguna.
Chris Vermeulen continues to impress, keeping stubbornly in the top 3 all session, only losing out once the fast times started to fly at the end of the session. Stoner, Rossi and Vermeulen look like settling the podium, and it's most likely to be settled in that order.
With Alex de Angelis getting up into 4th spot, his team mate Shinya Nakano forced to settle for 6th, the Gresini Hondas are flying at Laguna Seca. A podium is likely to be out of their reach, but they could definitely both get in the way.
Colin Edwards was slow in the early part of the session, only picking up speed in the latter part, and the same was true for fellow Yamaha rider Jorge Lorenzo. Even James Toseland picked up some speed later on, though it didn't get him any further than 16th position.
Ben Spies won the battle of the wildcards, with a creditable 11th spot, though he was slowest Suzuki. Spies was consistently in the top half of the table, though, and quickly settling in on the bike. Spies could improve some more on before the weekend is out.
Marco Melandri slipped down the order in this afternoon's session, but was still setting decent times. He is much more competitive here than he has been all year, though he's still a little off the pace.
The gap covering the top 15 is 1.8 seconds, quite a chunk considering this is one of the shortest tracks on the calendar. But ignore Casey Stoner's time, and there's only a second covering 2nd to 15th (Dani Pedrosa: suffering, but improving), which is a good deal closer. Stoner is likely to walk away with the race, but the competition behind the reigning World Champion could be close.
The session was red-flagged with 20 minutes to go, after Ant West lost the front just before Turn 3, and his bike thumped into the air fence, puncturing a section. The incident hightlighted the safety issues at Laguna. Most other tracks have enough room for clearing up wreckage without red-flagging practice - and don't need so much air fence, which can get punctured. But the layout of Laguna means that there are some places where an accident brings proceedings to a halt almost automatically. Turn 3 is such a spot, as well as the ridge that the section up towards the Corkscrew runs along. It just goes to show how physical geography can both bless a track with a fantastic layout, and create safety headaches at the same time.
Practice continues tomorrow morning.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Manufacturer||Fast Lap||Diff||Diff Previous|
|4||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'22.808||0.982||0.039|
|17||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'23.955||2.129||0.012|