Melandri sets pace on Friday in Le Mans

On one of the bikes of Honda Gresini, Marco Melandri set the pace on day one of activity at the Bugatti Le Mans circuit of France, where the fifth round of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) takes place this...

On one of the bikes of Honda Gresini, Marco Melandri set the pace on day one of activity at the Bugatti Le Mans circuit of France, where the fifth round of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) takes place this weekend.

The Italian racer that took the victory here last year recorded a time of 1'35.319 on the 15th of 22 laps during the hour long afternoon session at Le Mans, which ended at 2.50pm local time.

"I'm satisfied with this result. The team prepared a good base setting for the bike and my feeling has been really positive right from this morning. We've improved the feeling with the front, thanks to the work we've done with the forks and the new front tyre Bridegestone have brought here", Melandri commented.

Melandri was delighted with the performance of his Honda, in particular the handling, and is confident about his chances in Sunday's race. "Tomorrow I'll try and improve our performance on a qualifying tyre because my target is to qualify on the front two rows and fight for the podium", the Italian stated.

Second place belong to Spaniard ace Dani Pedrosa who set a laptime just 0.148 adrift from Melandri once the season was over.

Pedrosa has a fantastic record at the French circuit and after showing good pace throughout the Friday sessions he will be confident of achieving a good qualifying position tomorrow afternoon for Sunday's race.

Another Spaniard rider proved to be fast at Le Mans, Carlos Checa took best third spot onboard his Honda LCR.

Checa set a time of 1'35.498 that allowed him to complete a perfect day for Honda with the 1, 2, 3 in a weekend that many thought would be dominated by Yamaha and Ducati.

After a not so good season start for Honda's bikes, Friday in Le Mans has been very positive and the expectative high for what could happen in the qualifying on Saturday.

American pair Colin Edwards, in the works Fiat Yamaha, and John Hopkins, with the Rizla Suzuki, were fourth and fifth fastest, both lapping just four tenths of a second slower than Melandri, whilst current World Championship front runner, Casey Stoner, was just behind them in sixth.

"The track's not in the best condition but the lap times we are doing are pretty much on a par with the 990s, and considering this is an acceleration track I think the 800s are doing exceptionally well. We expected this circuit to be a little more difficult but our settings seem pretty good at the moment. We're doing the best job we can to get the bike to hook up out of the turns and Bridgestone are doing an excellent job as well", Stoner expressed.

The Australian pronounced himself confident of his Ducati GP7, which already performed well at a circuit that's different from this weekend. In Shanghai two weeks ago, he won his third race of the year.

Valentino Rossi ended up right behind Stoner taking seventh spot with the second bike of Fiat Yamaha. Due to the specifications of the French track with no major fast straight, the Italian knows this could be a good opportunity to cut the gap to Stoner in the championship.

After a good start in the morning session, Rossi ran into unexpected problems as he tried to find the right balance for bike and tyres and he was unable to improve his time from this free practice one and ended the day seventh in the combined standings.

Nicky Hayden, current world champion, continues to find what he had last year on his Repsol Honda and despite the fact that there were three bikes like his in the top times, the American had to settle for ninth spot and a time of 1'35.908.

The activity will continue tomorrow with a third free practice session at 10.00 local time before the qualifying session at 13.50.

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