Marco Melandri, who is back on track after two weeks of recuperation from neck and ankle injuries, set the pace in day one of the San Marino Grand Prix that was shortened due to heavy rain fell in Misano circuit.
Due to the extreme weather conditions, where torrential downpours took place at around 12pm local time, all the afternoon's practice and qualifying sessions (for 125cc and 250cc) have been cancelled.
The large quantity of rain that fell in a two hour burst provoked a large amount of flooding on the track, with the run-off areas and garages also affected. Race Direction confirmed the cancellation of the day's activities after inspecting the track.
With this situation, the Italian rider from Gresini Honda lapped a time of 1.46:948 to lead field after the unique practice session of Friday.
"I'm really happy - I didn't think I would be so comfortable on the bike having not ridden it properly for almost two months (since Laguna). Two days ago I was very worried because I was in a bad way but thankfully this morning I felt better", Melandri commented.
Melandri completed 19 laps in the relatively unkonown circuit of Misano, that receives MotoGP action for the first time.
"The wet conditions didn't put too much stress on my neck because there isn't the hard braking that you have in the dry. I was really desperate to get back on track and I enjoyed it. The bike is working well and I found a good feeling straight away", the local rider added.
About the circuit, that this weekend receives the Continental Circus for the first time in fourteen years, Melandri mentioned: "I know Misano track but with the changes they made and the reverse direction it feels completely new. The fast part is particularly difficult to understand but I think this is where the rider can make the difference. Tomorrow could be tricky because of the amount of dirt that the rain brought onto the track".
Second place today belong to another Italian after Valentino Rossi marked 1.48:632 to finish the day over a second and a half from Melandri.
"Unfortunately we had very bad weather today but this morning my first impressions of the track were good, better than when I came here to do some laps with the safety commission on a street bike. I think they've done a very good job with the bumps; we asked them to resurface another time and now it's not so bad. Of course in the wet we're not riding at the maximum, but it seems okay and I was quite happy", the Fiat Yamaha ace stated.
Rossi, who arrived to his second home race of the season -the other one is in Mugello- with the intention to give his fans the chance of celebrate something knowing he is far in the chase for the championship, wants to have a dry track tomorrow and the forecasts seems good for that.
"Because of the rain we lost two hours, which makes things more difficult for everyone, but we have an extra hour tomorrow and the forecast is much better so I hope that we will get some dry time. My performance this morning was quite good, we tried a new rain tyre on the rear and it worked well. Melandri was quite far ahead but anyway I'm quite happy. Of course it's another story tomorrow in the dry, but I think we have some more improvements for the dry setting as well so I am looking forward to it."
Standings leader's Casey Stoner put his Marlboro Ducati on third spot riding the Desmocedici GP7 just 13 laps to clock 1.48:852.
"I had a small problem this morning, I made a mistake and crashed, even though I was being very careful at that point of the track because I had seen a lot of 125 riders crashing and running wide there, so it came as a big surprise to me. For the rest of the session we only had medium tyres so it wasn't possible to ride with so much confidence. I was expecting this afternoon to be dry but it was the complete opposite - in the end there was enough water on the track in some places to go swimming! I think we could have had a good day today, I was quite disappointed that we couldn't ride the circuit again", the Australian commented.
Rounding out the first practice top-10 were Loris Capirossi, Colin Edwards, Nicky Hayden, Randy de Puniet, John Hopkins -confirmed in Kawasaki for 2008-, Anthony West and Alex Barros.
The MotoGP riders should have had two more practice sessions today; an extra hour having been added to allow them time to learn the new circuit. As a result a revised schedule tomorrow will see a two-hour MotoGP practice in the morning, from 0900 to 1100, before the standard one-hour qualifying session in the afternoon.