Valentino Rossi set the fastest time in a fascinating and surprising first session of free practice, but that was one of the least surprising aspects of the whole weekend. Rossi and Fiat Yamaha team mate Jorge Lorenzo swapped the lead a number of times, but Rossi comfortably took the top spot by firing in an incredibly fast lap with 5 minutes of the session left. Lorenzo closed the gap in the final minutes, from half a second to just over 3/10ths, but could not match the Italian's pace. Casey Stoner was 3rd fastest, going fast despite a crash with a quarter of the session left, lowsiding out unhurt at the tight La Caixa corner.
A top 3 of Rossi, Lorenzo and Stoner is hardly a surprise, but behind them, things were hugely shaken up. Andrea Dovizioso in 4th is to be expected, but Randy de Puniet's 5th spot is an impressive showing on the LCR Honda, while Nicky Hayden's 6th fastest time is almost downright shocking. Prior to the MotoGP round at Barcelona, Hayden told the press that he would be trying a radically revised setup to his Ducati GP9, and it looks like it has worked. Hayden was well inside the top 10 for most of the session, and was seen with a broad smile on his face in the pits after the session, the first time that's happened for a long time. It's very early days to be passing judgment, but so far the changes seem to have worked for Hayden.
Loris Capirossi continued his run of decent form, finishing 7th ahead of Colin Edwards, while Edwards' Tech 3 Yamaha team mate James Toseland built on his strong result at Mugello, taking 10th place.
But the two biggest shocks of the session were in 9th and 19th place, the two results undoubtedly related. Yuki Takahashi had his best result since the rain-soaked warm up for the Japanese Grand Prix on the Team Scot Honda, taking 9th spot on the grid. But Takahashi's performance is almost certainly motivated by the man he is sharing the garage with. Gabor Talmacsi, the Hungarian rider who left the Aspar 250 team over a contractual dispute, has taken Takahashi's spare bike, bringing with him sponsorship from the Hungarian oil company Mol. With Talmacsi bringing money to the cash-strapped team, Yuki Takahashi's position is very precarious indeed, and Barcelona could be his last ride in MotoGP.
But Talmacsi can do more than just raise sponsorship. The FP1 session was Talmacsi's very first outing on a MotoGP bike, the Hungarian's pit crew still giving him instructions on what the various buttons and switches on the handlebars do as Talmacsi left the pits. The Hungarian made solid progress, dropping a second off his lap times every time he went out of the pits. To finish 4.6 seconds off Valentino Rossi after just 16 full laps on a MotoGP bike is pretty impressive, and Talmacsi will be looking forward to Monday, and a chance to spend a lot of time just figuring out how the bike works.
Results of FP1 session for the MotoGP class:
|5||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'43.871||0.833||0.187|
|16||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'45.126||2.088||0.025|