Both today's sessions were dry, despite the forecasts for showers, though the conditions were far from ideal for motorcycle racing. That didn't seem to bother Casey Stoner, though, the Australian utterly dominating both sessions. Stoner was particularly impressive in the afternoon's session, putting in consistent long runs of 1'28, something which the other riders could only manage sporadically. This was very much the Casey Stoner of 2007, a thought which must worry the competition.
One surprise was Nicky Hayden finishing 2nd fastest. Hayden looked considerably happier on board the engine with the pneumatic valves, though whether that's down to the engine or Nicky Hayden is a question as yet to be answered. Either way, it left Hayden much quicker than he has been so far this season.
Hayden's team mate was less happy, suffering a nasty spill well into the afternoon session. Pedrosa got up painfully, though relatively uninjured, and was able to go back out on his second bike. A crash was the last thing Pedrosa needed, after badly hurting his back in a big off during testing after Barcelona. The FP2 spill definitely took the wind out of Pedroda's sails, as the Spaniard was significantly slower once he went back out again.
Valentino Rossi finished up the day 3rd fastest, but his deficit to Stoner must be worrying. Rossi was consistently 3/4 of a second behind Stoner, and will have some catching up to do during Qualifying.
The Tech 3 Yamaha team and the Gresini Honda team follow the top 3, with Colin Edwards the fastest of the bunch. His Tech 3 team mate James Toseland is fraction off the pace, which will be disappointing in front of his home crowd, but there should be more to come tomorrow. Alex de Angelis continued his run of good form, though once again, the question is not whether he's fast, but whether he can stay aboard the bike. Shinya Nakano is also making progress, though of the more steady kind.
The more interesting developments are happening at the back of the field, or in the case of Ant West, not at the back of the field. The testing which West did in Japan has made a big improvement, with West now firmly mid-pack, and right behind his team mate. More importantly, his deficit to the fast boys is only 1.4 seconds, instead of well over 2. It's too early to tell how this will actually work out, but the evidence so far is promising.
Ben Spies is another name who is not at the back of the field. The American managed to stay ahead of Sylvain Guintoli, and has gotten quicker every time he has been out on the track. It must be a culture shock for the Texan to be 17th, as he normally only has his Yoshimura Suzuki team mate Mat Mladin to contend with. But the low key approach he is taking is working well, if quietly, so far.
One man who is nearer to the back of the field than we have become accustomed to is Jorge Lorenzo. The Spanish rookie, who tore up the early season, is clearly shaken by the concussion he suffered in a big crash at Barcelona, and is circulating slowly and gingerly, at least in MotoGP terms. Lorenzo will be aiming just to finish the race, and on the evidence of today's free practice, that's all he will do.
Practice continues Saturday morning, with qualifying in the afternoon. During which period, it's due to rain. It will make qualifying very interesting indeed.
|Pos.||No.||Rider||Manufacturer||Fast Lap||Diff||Diff Previous|
|5||15||Alex DE ANGELIS||HONDA||1'28.992||0.739||0.023|
|10||14||Randy DE PUNIET||HONDA||1'29.433||1.180||0.023|
|Fastest Lap:||14||Casey STONER||1'28.253||164.105 Km/h|
|Circuit Record Lap:||2006||Dani PEDROSA||1'28.714||163.252 Km/h|
|Circuit Best Lap:||2006||Dani PEDROSA||1'27.676||165.185 Km/h|