Though the session started under overcast skies once again, the weather gods held fire over Mugello this morning, allowing the third free practice to take place in dry, if not exactly glorious conditions. And as on Friday morning, it was once again Dani Pedrosa who dominated the morning's session. Pedrosa, who is using an updated chassis here, was consistently faster than the rest of the pack, running 1'50s for most of the session.
Valentino Rossi set the second fastest time, finding decent pace on his last run of the session, the only other man to consistently get into the 1'50 bracket. Rossi edged out Casey Stoner, the Ducati man setting consistent low 1'51s throughout the session. Stoner's Ducati team mate Loris Capirossi set the 4th fastest time, after running mid-pack until the end, while Marco Melandri looked competitive at his home Grand Prix, setting the 5th fastest time on his Gresini Honda.
Alex Barros was 6th with one fast lap early in the session, the first of the Pramac Ducatis, ahead of John Hopkins, who also ran consistently low 1'51 times, and looks to have decent race pace. Tech 3 Yamaha's Makoto Tamada surprised a few people with his 8th fastest time, though his fastest time was set on a single lap at the end of the session, raising the suspicion that he used a Dunlop qualifier for his time. Alex Hofmann was 9th fastest on the other Pramac Ducati, but also set an impressively consistent set of low 1'51s in his last run, while Hopkins' Suzuki team mate Chris Vermeulen was 10th fastest in the dry, after being so impressive in the wet yesterday. Vermeulen was another rider to set a string of low 1'51s during his final run.
Though there looks like being a very close fight for 3rd or 4th, with a group of 5 or 6 capable of running in the low 1'51s, only Dani Pedrosa and Valentino Rossi were capable of running what looks like being the winning race pace, which will be mid 1'50s. Pedrosa in particular was very, very strong, and Rossi will have to pull out all the stops to keep the Spanish challenger in check.
Of course, there's still the weather. The weather looks like it could go either way on Sunday, giving us either a wet race, a dry race, or a bit of both. Either way, it should be interesting.
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