Testing is in full swing in Qatar, in the first of the genuine pre-season shootouts before the real racing begins here in March, but this is no cold war. On the very first day of testing, lap records have been broken, and Colin Edwards has come within a second of Casey Stoner's pole record set last year on the 990cc Honda RC211V. Times are fast, with the top three all being inside of 1'57.
What must worry the competition, however, is the fact that the factory Yamahas are once again one-two at the top of the time sheets, with Valentino Rossi just over a tenth behind Colin Edwards astonishingly fast time. Behind Rossi, Casey Stoner took a third place, demonstrating his pole here last year was anything but a fluke. Kenny Roberts Jr came in a surprising 4th position, his KR212V the first of the Honda powered contenders, just a smidgeon ahead of Nicky Hayden on the factory Repsol Honda RC212V.
John Hopkins took 6th place, further down the charts than the Suzuki's have been over the past few days, but still faster than the fastest race lap he set here last year. Behind Hopkins, Loris Capirossi's time is nearly 4/10ths behind his Ducati team mate, and leads Carlos Checa on the LCR Honda, from Alex Barros on the satellite Pramac d'Antin Ducati. Hayden's team mate Dani Pedrosa set the 10th fastest time, nearly 0.7 seconds behind the World Champion's time.
Randy de Puniet must be slightly disappointed after more promising outings on the Kawasaki in Sepang, but the real worries must be in the Gresini Honda pit. Marco Melandri has so far failed to show the stellar form of 2005 and 2006, and has been very much mid-pack so far during testing.
At the bottom of the timesheets, the Ilmor's have improved, with Andrew Pitt closing the gap from 7 seconds at Sepang down to under 5 seconds. Pitt's team mate, Jeremy McWilliams, may be rueing his decision to return so early from the badly broken leg he sustained at Jerez, his fastest time a lowly 2'10. McWilliams isn't the only injury victim here, though, as Kawasaki's Olivier Jacque was taken to hospital after blacking out during a heavy crash. It is doubtful he'll make an appearance tomorrow, and there's a question mark over whether he'll be able to return on Thursday either.
|1||Colin Edwards||Yamaha Factory Racing||1'56.774|
|2||Valentino Rossi||Yamaha Factory Racing||1'56.891|
|3||Casey Stoner||Ducati Marlboro||1'56.960|
|4||Kenny Roberts Jr.||Team KR||1'57.064|
|5||Nicky Hayden||Repsol Honda||1'57.070|
|6||John Hopkins||Rizla Suzuki||1'57.350|
|7||Loris Capirossi||Ducati Marlboro||1'57.360|
|8||Carlos Checa||LCR Honda||1'57.370|
|9||Alex Barros||Pramac d'Antin||1'57.690|
|10||Dani Pedrosa||Repsol Honda||1'57.700|
|11||Randy de Puniet||Kawasaki Racing||1'57.730|
|12||Marco Melandri||Honda Gresini||1Â´57.760|
|13||Alex Hofmann||Pramac d'Antin||1'57.800|
|14||Shinya Nakano||Konica Minolta Honda||1'57.850|
|15||Chris Vermeulen||Rizla Suzuki||1'57.900|
|16||Makoto Tamada||Dunlop Yamaha Tech3||1'58.408|
|17||Olivier Jacque||Kawasaki Racing||1'58.740|
|18||Toni Elias||Honda Gresini||1Â´59.400|
|19||Sylvain Guintoli||Dunlop Yamaha Tech3||1'59.700|
|20||Shinichi Ito||Ducati TTT||1Â´59.966|
|21||Andrew Pitt||Ilmor GP||2Â´01.667|
|22||Jeremy McWilliams||Ilmor GP||2'10.341|