If anyone was in any doubt that Casey Stoner means business in Istanbul, then he put them straight this morning. Stoner topped the timesheets again, taking over 1/10th of a second off his time from this afternoon. But what was far more impressive was the long run he put in the middle of the session, posting 10 fast laps, mostly in the mid 1'54s on his Marlboro Ducati. That looks like being Stoner's race pace, and it looks like being unbeatable.
That won't stop others from trying of course, and chief among the challengers will be Valentino Rossi, who took his Fiat Yamaha to 2nd spot this morning. But The Doctor cannot afford to be complacent, as he only dipped into the 1'54s on his final run of the session. That could mean that the Yamaha team have chosen a tire that works in the warmth of the afternoon sessions, rather than the cooler morning sessions, but they still have work to do.
Where the Hondas had a disastrous session yesterday, hope dawned with this morning's session. Both Hannspree Gresini man Toni Elias and Repsol rider Dani Pedrosa are in the top 4, with Pedrosa being a constant feature at the top of the timesheets. Pedrosa is said to be using last year's forks, as was Marco Melandri, and even Nicky Hayden, and they seem to have given some improvement, at least for the young Spaniard. What is remarkable is that the two smallest Honda men seem to be the only riders who can make the RC212V go.
Colin Edwards took 5th spot, and also managed a decent run of mid 1'54s on his Fiat Yamaha. Edwards was followed by the two Rizla Suzuki men, with Chris Vermeulen's 6th spot reflecting his more consistent times over John Hopkins, who's longer runs were a little slower.
Stoner's Marlboro Ducati team mate Loris Capirossi showed his inconsistency, finishing the session in 8th spot, his times well behind the Australian's. And behind Capirossi, the two Kawasakis edged into the top 10, Olivier Jacque finishing ahead of his younger team mate Randy de Puniet, both running consistent 1'55s. That won't be enough to challenge for the lead, but should keep them in contention for top 10 places.
Some big surprises further down the order, both good and bad. The positive surprise is Makoto Tamada up in 12th spot on the Dunlop-shod Tech 3 Yamaha. But the bad news is for the Hondas: World Champion Nicky Hayden could only manage a 17th time on the other factory Honda, ahead of Shinya Nakano and the Honda-powered KR212V of Kenny Roberts Jr in 19th and last place. In fact, 4 of the slowest 6 bikes were Hondas, starting with Marco Melandri in 14th position, and 5 of the 6 use the Honda powerplant, counting Roberts' KR212V. Something is very, very wrong at the richest, most powerful and most resourceful manufacturer.
The last item of note regards the tires. Only 3 Michelins in the top 10. It looks like Bridgestone have done their homework for the Istanbul Park track, alright. Qualifying practice this afternoon will reveal more.
|Circuit Record Lap:||2006||Toni ELIAS||1'52.877||170.309 Km/h|
|Circuit Best Lap:||2005||Sete GIBERNAU||1'52.334||171.132 Km/h|