He has been under the weather in recent weeks, but Casey Stoner proved to be on top of conditions at the Sachsenring on Friday afternoon. A damp track following rainfall in the 125cc Free Practice session gave the riders plenty to think about in their first run for the Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland, but in the end it was the Ducati Marlboro man who proved most at ease.
Stoner was some three tenths of a second quicker than any other rider, with a time of 1’22.779. Whilst he was the standout rider, behind him was a group of three riders separated by less than a tenth of a second. Laguna Seca racewinner Dani Pedrosa headed said pack, showing no fear in the face of a track that so viciously took him out of action on raceday last year.
World Championship leader Valentino Rossi and LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet also made their presences felt, whilst Alex de Angelis and Colin Edwards also showed their versatility in preparation for an important race.
Still feeling the effects of his qualifying crash in the United States, Jorge Lorenzo was nearly two seconds down on Stoner’s initial time. The Fiat Yamaha rider has had little time to rest after receiving the big knock under two weeks ago.
The only faller in the Free Practice session was Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen, who crashed with fifteen minutes remaining in a highside that left him limping away, whilst James Toseland nearly came unstuck with a loss of rear grip early on.
Héctor Barberá came back from a three-week break for the 250cc class by putting his name at the top of the Free Practice one timesheet. The PepeWorld rider was able to improve upon his own fastest lap in the final minutes of the run, eventually posting a best time of 1’24.951.
The Spaniard was nearly half a second quicker than rival Marco Simoncelli, the category’s World Champion and 2008 Sachsenring racewinner. Clocking almost exactly the same time as Simoncelli was fellow Italian Mattia Pasini, whose Team Toth outfit once again had their participation thrown into doubt before the Friday session.
Alex Debón and Mike di Meglio also showed renewed energy in the top five, whilst the main title contenders could be found further down the results sheet. Scot Racing’s Hiroshi Aoyama, the series leader, was seventh quickest, whilst Álvaro Bautista could only muster eleventh -nearly a full second behind Barberá.
There was a big sliding lowside for Shoya Tomizawa in the run, although he walked away unharmed from the incident.
Earlier in the day it had taken just half an hour for rain to hit the Sachsenring on Friday afternoon, provoking an early trip back to the garage for the 125cc riders.
With the expectation that more showers will come down over the course of the weekend, a selection of riders went back out on a soaking track before the end of the session, but nobody was ever going to beat the 1’28.594 lap put down by Julián Simón at the dry beginning of the afternoon.
Marc Marquez was second in the run, 0.671 behind the Bancaja Aspar rider, whilst title challenger Bradley Smith was a further 0.158 back. The only other rider within a second of Simón’s time was Nico Terol, Jack&Jones WRB’s form rider of recent races.
The lower cylinder class competitors will hope to be able to continue work on their dry settings on Saturday morning, when they will undertake a second free practice session for the Alice Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland.