Hiroshi Aoyama struck the first blow in the battle for the 250cc championship at Sepang, the Japanese rider setting the fastest time of the day in the dying seconds of first session of free practice. It had taken much of the session until Aoyama was up to speed, though. For the first 40 minutes, Aoyama languished mid-pack with his main title rival Marco Simoncelli, but with 20 minutes to go, the Scot Honda rider picked up the pace, eventually taking top spot.
Aoyama had to depose Alex Debon to take 1st, pushing the Spaniard down into 2nd. There was pleasant surprise for the local media, with Thai rider Ratthapark Wilairot taking 3rd place, and even looking capable of setting the fastest time at one point, before losing out in the final section. Mike di Meglio rounds out the top 4, ahead of Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera.
Barbera had been fast early on, making a point to his team boss Sito Pons. Barbera claims that he has not received a large part of his salary from Pons, and threatened not to ride, only taking to the track after a few minutes. Simone Corsi has previously left the Pons team after a similar dispute over money.
Marco Simoncelli, meanwhile, ended the day down in 10th, a second and a quarter off of Hiroshi Aoyama's fastest time. If they finish this way on Sunday, Aoyama would be champion, but there's a long way to go yet.
|4||63||Mike DI MEGLIO||APRILIA||2'07.973||0.098||0.046|
|9||35||Raffaele DE ROSA||HONDA||2'09.120||1.245||0.268|