The weather had improved considerably this afternoon during MotoGP's FP2 session, the session starting sunny and dry. But sunny as it may have been, at the start of the session, the track was still pretty cool, as a coterie of crashers hit the deck on their first laps out of the pits. The fallers included Alex de Angelis, who has managed to fall off in almost every single session of practice so far this year, James Toseland, and the reigning champion Casey Stoner.
Despite his strong start this morning, Casey Stoner had a rather unhappy time this afternoon. His early crash meant that he was unable to use his number 1 bike for the session, and as Stoner is very picky about which of the two Ducatis he rides, despite the machines being supposedly identical, the Australian never really hit his stride.
The session turned into an entertaining back and forth between Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards, and Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi. It was obvious that Edwards likes this track, as his name was continually at the top of the timing sheets, until Dani Pedrosa started putting in some very hot laps towards the end of the session. In the end, Pedrosa took the fastest time, ahead of Rossi and Edwards. Like Pedrosa, Rossi set his fastest times in the latter half of the session, while Edwards was quick all day. But the order the top 3 finished in was almost random, as Pedrosa was only 0.04 of a second faster than Rossi, who was only 0.08 of a second faster than Edwards.
Positions 4 and 5 were taken by the team mates of places 1 and 2, with Nicky Hayden leading Jorge Lorenzo. Lorenzo never looked like dominating as he has at earlier races, but still showed strongly in what is still only his third race. Hayden was almost as quick as the front three, and finished within 2/10ths of Pedrosa.
Another rookie finished in 6th Andrea Dovizioso being impressive once again on the satellite Honda, and finishing ahead of the reigning world champion. Stoner was far from pleased with his own progress, and spent a lot of time in the pits in animated discussion with his engineers.
In 8th, Shinya Nakano showed a pleasantly surprising return to form, finally finding his feet on the Bridgestone-shod Gresini Honda. Nakano finished ahead of the LCR Honda of Randy de Puniet, who was fastest earlier in the session, but couldn't match the pace once the big names stepped up a gear. And John Hopkins rounded out the top 10, the Kawasaki starting to find some pace, but still a way off the front.
At the bottom of the grid, the other Ducatis continued to struggle, with the Alice Ducatis finishing dead last, and Marco Melandri only managing to beat Ant West on the other Kawasaki to take 15th. But the award for unluckiest rider on the grid must surely go to Toni Elias, whose Alice Ducati blew up in a big cloud of oily smoke down the front straight. As if having your engine detonate underneath wasn't bad enough, the Ducati then blew a stream of scorching oil into Elias' boot, requiring the Spaniard to visit the local hospital for a further examination.
The final item worthy of note was the marked difference in fortunes of the different tire companies under vastly different weather conditions. In the cold and damp, the Bridgestones dominated, while in the dry, warmer afternoon, it was very much the Michelins who were in charge. With the weather expected to improve from today onwards, the omens are good for the French rubber company.
Practice continues on Saturday, with the official Qualifying session tomorrow afternoon.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Manufacturer||Fast Lap||Diff||Diff Previous|
|9||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'39.332||0.825||0.023|
|14||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'41.033||2.526||0.978|
|Fastest Lap:||Lap 24||Dani PEDROSA||1'38.507||152.833 Km/h|
|Circuit Record Lap:||2007||Nicky HAYDEN||1'37.493||154.423 Km/h|
|Circuit Best Lap:||2006||Valentino ROSSI||1'36.200||156.498 Km/h|