Conditions were cool for the opening session at Le Mans, and although dry, the track took a while to get up to temperature. Early times were fairly slow, but as the session went on, times began to drop.
The biggest surprise has been the revival of Honda, with Dani Pedrosa setting the quickest lap, and running consistently fast laps throughout the session. And to prove it's not just Pedrosa, the Spaniard's team mate Nicky Hayden was 3rd fastest, and Carlos Checa, who always runs well at Le Mans, set the 4th quickest time. This will be a big morale boost to the Honda camp, as the season has been fairly dismal for HRC so far. It looks like Honda may have found some improvements which will help them in France.
The filling in the Repsol sandwich is Valentino Rossi. Rossi also set consistently fast laps, and is looking very strong for the race. Rossi's title rival Casey Stoner set the 5th fastest time, not having as easy a time on his Ducati as in Shanghai, ahead of the man they love to hate, Toni Elias, making it 3 Hondas in the top 6. Elias heads up a pair of Americans, Fiat Yamaha's Colin Edwards and Rizla Suzuki's John Hopkins. Elias' Gresini Honda team mate Marco Melandri makes it 4 Hondas in the top 9, with Alex Barros taking 10th spot on the Pramac d'Antin Ducati.
Once again, the times are very close. 0.438 seconds covers Pedrosa to Melandri in 9th, and Pedrosa and Rossi have nearly 2/10ths on 3rd place man Nicky Hayden. Alex Barros in 10th is the last man to be inside a second, just over 3/4s of a second back from Pedrosa.
Perhaps most interesting is the top speeds. In France, it is not the Ducatis who top the speed charts, but John Hopkins, who is some 4 mph faster than Loris Capirossi on the Marlboro Ducati. Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet is 3rd fastest, ahead of Alex Barros.
Although the conditions were too cool early in the session for the result to be particularly meaningful, it seems that the Hondas may have found some extra speed. This afternoon's session, at temperatures much closer to conditions for the race, will give us a much clearer picture of where people stand.
Le Mans FP1 times