If the first session of free practice at Losail was a typical case of the Stoner Show, the young world champion stamping his authority on the field right from the get go, and with the most dictatorial jackboot he had to hand, the second session was a slightly different affair, in several interesting ways. Of course, the outcome was still the same, with Stoner topping the timesheets once again, but how he got there was a completely different story. In FP1, Stoner took fastest time just 8 minutes into the session, and held it for the rest of the hour. In FP2, however, whenever Stoner set a fastest lap, there'd be some jumped up rookie coming in and stealing his thunder.
Perhaps the most impressive performance tonight was that of Jorge Lorenzo, who put in a long run at the end of the session in which he was consistently the fastest man on the track round the first three sections, only to lose out in the last part, comprising the final corner and the long drag race to the finish line. The timing was chillingly reminiscent of last year's race, where the Yamaha could best the Ducati round the first half of the track, while the Ducati would claw it all back out of the final turn and down the long straight. This time, though, it's Jorge Lorenzo who's chasing Stoner, not Valentino Rossi.
That the Yamahas are still fast at Qatar, as they were last year, was amply demonstrated by the fact that behind Stoner sit 3 Yamahas. Lorenzo almost has the measure of Stoner, but the Tech 3 team are a little way behind, World Superbike champion James Toseland ahead of his team mate Colin Edwards. Both men go well here, but both men are between 15 and 17 km/h down on Stoner's Ducati at the end of the front straight. But not all of the Yamahas are doing well here, as Valentino Rossi got off to a poorer start than he would have wanted, only managing the 9th fastest time.
That the rookies are making a serious dent on the series is evident from the fact that behind Edwards sit Andrea Dovizioso and Alex de Angelis on the satellite Hondas. Also worthy of mention are the Suzukis, who found a serious improvement from the early session, climbing up to 8th and 10th respectively.
The big surprise is the dismal showing of the old guard. Rossi is the best of them in 9th, but the factory Hondas are way down in 11th and 13th, Dani Pedrosa just ahead of his team mate Nicky Hayden. Both men spent most of the session on the 2007 version of the RC212V, but were still undecided, as the '08 bike got several outings as well. With 20 minutes to go in the session, Pedrosa was involved in bizarre crash with Valentino Rossi, the Spaniard flying into the rear of The Doctor, after approaching at very high speed. Rossi didn't look like he was backing off particularly, so it's hard to apportion blame. But the outcome was that Pedrosa went for another high-speed tumble in Qatar's vicious gravel traps, holding his broken hand precariously in the air. Whether Pedrosa exacerbated his injury or not is as yet unknown.
What did become clear from this evening's second free practice session is the influence of the falling temperatures. Track temperatures fell from around 21 degrees centigrade to well below 17 by the end of the session. But a slightly more disturbing fact was the moisture which James Toseland reported was being formed on the track towards the end of the session. With FP2 being run at the same time that Sunday's race will be run, this means the riders will face a cooling track and the possiblity of damp patches appearing as the evening wears on. That this is not just a theoretical danger was amply demonstrated by Ant West's vicious highside, caused by what appeared to be West just touching the painted kerbstones.
Practice resumes again tomorrow, at 7pm Qatar time.
||Alex DE ANGELIS
||Randy DE PUNIET