By: Gordon Hatch, MotoGP Correspondent
- Rain dampens spirits in Mugello
- Simoncelli has top speed in Italy
- Stoner & Dovizioso, 2nd & 3rd
Friday practice affected by light rain – Simoncelli fastest
The MotoGP Free Practice sessions got underway today at Round 8 of this year’s championship that takes place the Autodromo Internazionale del Mugello, Italy with mixed weather conditions greeting the riders.
The morning session could not have got off to a better start with sunshine beaming down on the newly re-surfaced track and the riders made the most of the conditions with some quick times being posted the best of which being that of San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli with a 1m 48.987s.
While the fans were delighted with Simoncelli’s times, there was also massive excitement at the appearance on track of the Italian super-package of Valentino Rossi and his Ducati Marlboro GP11.1. The seven-time MotoGP champion is hopeful that previous testing time on the GP12 at the Mugello circuit will give him a better chance of a podium finish that he, his team and the Italian fans are hoping for.
Stalking Simoncelli into second and third was the Honda duo, Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso, who both had good morning sessions with the Australian setting a 1m 49.027s with his teammate setting a fractionally slower time of 1m 49.088s.
Following the top three into 4th position was reigning MotoGP champion Jorge Lorenzo who is on the back foot somewhat due to being taken out of last week’s race at TT Assen on the first lap by Simoncelli. The Yamaha Factory racing rider set his best time of 1m 49.251s to finish just ahead of last week’s winner and his teammate Ben Spies (1m 49.364s).
Colin Edwards continues his good run of form and set the 6th fastest team with a time of 1m 49.810s and the Texan is amazingly riding with a collarbone that he broke just a few weeks ago. After missing the last three races due to a broken collarbone, Dani Pedrosa returned to action and despite being a little sore, the Repsol Honda rider clocked a 1m 50.104s - a time good enough for 7th place.
Sitting in 8th was Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro) after setting a 1m 50.203s on his GP11 with the ‘Ducatisti’ cheering the American on from the stands. Simoncelli’s teammate Hiroshi Aoyama was back on his San Carlo Honda Gresini RC212V today after deputising for Pedrosa on the last time out in Holland. The Japanese set a 1m 50.629s to bag him 9th position.
The final place in the top ten was secured by Rizla Suzuki rider Alvaro Bautista who set a time of 1m 50.658s while Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) continues to push on his YZR-M1 and set a personal best time of 1m 50.683s. Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing) continues to have problems in setting up his GP11 with the Frenchman only managing a best lap of 1m 50.729s to secure 12th.
The Italian crowds were left disappointed somewhat after their first sight of the Rossi-Ducati package on home soil went badly with the multiple world champions’ first bike breaking down with a technical problem. The ‘Ducatisti’ could be forgiven for thinking that the motorsport gods are not looking favourably on the red rider today after the #46 rider’s second machine also broke down and had to be wheeled off the track. Rossi’s best time of 1m 50.780s sees ‘The Doctor’ in 13th position.
The final three positions on the timing sheets were secured by Hector Barbera (Mapfre Aspar) with a 1m 51.153s. Next followed Toni Elias for the LCR Honda squad after setting a best time of 1m 51.868s with the final position going to Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Motoracing) on his best time of 1m 51.876s. Loris Capirossi (Pramac Racing) is missing after injuring himself during qualifying last weekend..
The best times were set in the morning session since the afternoon’s practice was affected nearly the entire time by light rain hampering the teams from making any definitive set-up changes. Towards the end of the session the rain cleared and in total, 12 riders put in timed laps of which Dovizioso set the fastest but his time of 1m 49.272s was still off the first practice time of Simoncelli. However the biggest cheer came when Rossi went on track towards the end to set the third fastest time much to fans delight.
More to follow with quotes and photos