The first day of practice at Jerez was full of surprises. Despite Jerez not being a track which is particularly kind to Ducati, the fear of many was that we would see the old, familiar pattern once again: Casey Stoner coming out and being quick right from the very start.
The first session had been a little like that, but Stoner had been a long way from dominating. In the end, it was Colin Edwards who had set the fastest time, in a long string of laps in the mid-1'40s. Although Stoner was 2nd fastest, with Valentino Rossi not far behind, it was Edwards on the Tech 3 Yamaha who was most impressive.
The afternoon practice was even more interesting. This time, Yamaha turned in a clean sweep, taking the top 3 times in the session with apparent ease, with Fiat Yamaha team mates Jorge Lorenzo and Valentino Rossi, by just hundredths apart, beating Colin Edwards into 3rd.
Lorenzo's performance was truly impressive, putting in a long sequence of laps in the 1'40s, showing a consistency that could make him unbeatable in the race. The rest of top 6 all managed a few laps in the 1'40 bracket, but Lorenzo seemed capable of banging them out almost at will. But he didn't have it all his own way, as both Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi held the fastest lap for a good part of the session. Rossi, though, took much of the session to find his feet, only really moving up the order in the second half of the session.
Nicky Hayden, now happily ensconced on the 2008 version of the Honda RC212V, comfortably held off his team mate Dani Pedrosa to set the 4th fastest time. Pedrosa, though, seemed to still be in some pain at the end of the session. Although there is no question of Pedrosa not racing, it's obvious that his hand isn't back to full strength just yet.
Reigning champion, and the winner of the last race Casey Stoner had a very mediocre day. Stoner crashed halfway through the session, losing the front into one of the left-handers, but escaped relatively unscathed. Stoner had been looking more and more as if he was right on the edge throughout practice, his Ducati GP8 shaking its head every more violently getting in and out of corners. Stoner's crash left him saddled with his number 2 bike for the remainder of the session, something Mr Perfect is not particularly comfortable with. Stoner has an uphill task ahead of him here, if today's events are anything to go by.
Stoner wasn't the only faller of the day. Earlier in the session, both James Toseland and Sylvain Guintoli had harmless excursions into the gravel, joined in the dying minutes by Shinya Nakano.
Despite his crash, Toseland still managed a respectable 8th place finish, behind the other rookie revelation Andrea Dovizioso. Behind Toseland, Loris Capirossi set the 9th fastest time, the Suzuki finally showing some improvement. The last of the rookies, Alex de Angelis, rounded out the top 10.
Practice continues tomorrow, with Qualifying, crucial at the narrow Spanish track, taking place in the afternoon.
||Alex DE ANGELIS
||Randy DE PUNIET
|Circuit Record Lap
|Circuit Best Lap