Ducati took maximum advantage of a 3 kg (6.6lb) weight reduction to dominate free practice and the first qualifying session under a partly cloudy Utah sky at Miller Motorsports Park today. Prior to the beginning of practice, rain showers were spotted over the Stansbury Mountains, which form the western edge of the Tooele Valley, and raindrops were felt on pit lane. The threatening skies never turned into anything serious, however, and the session quickly turned into the battle of the twins with with Jakob Smrz, Carlos Checa, Shakey Byrne, Luca Scassa, Noriyuki Haga and Michel Fabrizio all near the top at various stages. Xerox Ducati's Fabrizio pulled out a last-gasp 1'49.756 after the checkered flag flew to end the session to top Athea teammates Checa and Byrne. Series runner-up Max Biaggi took advantage of the prodigious power of the Aprilia RSV4 to claw his way into 4th position.
The skies had cleared and the temperatures had climbed for the qualifying session later in the afternoon, but the pattern of Ducati domination continued. Jakob Smrz, who is reported to be on the short list to replace a disappointing Ruben Xaus at BMW next season, took provisional pole with a time a mere three-tenths of a second off Carlos Checa's 2008 track record. Michel Fabrizio continued his strong showing on the day, fending off a late session surge by Cal Crutchlow, whose Yamaha R1 experienced brake problems that kept it in the pit box in FP1 for a good fifteen minutes while the team searched for a solution. Series leader Leon Haslam, who lanquished in the bottom third of the standings in FP1, also put on a late session assault, placing fourth in the waning seconds. Max Biaggi was unable to capitalize on his Aprilia's 315 KPH top speed and landed tenth in the session, but may have better luck tomorrow, when he will reportedly have the use of the controversial gear-driven cam engine last employed in qualifying at the opening round at Phillip Island.