The final MotoGP at Donington Park before next year’s move to Silverstone got underway in heavy rain today, which eventually gave way to blue skies and sunshine at the Leicestershire circuit. Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo both spent time at the top of the standings in the wet before eventually finishing third and fifth in a last minute scurry for lap times as the track dried out.
A torrential downpour before the session turned to lighter rain as the practice began, but the track was still soaking and with temperatures fairly low it looked unlikely to dry fully during the hour. As at Sachsenring last week, both riders felt comfortable and confident from the off in the wet conditions and Lorenzo was on top for most of the early stages. Rossi tipped him off the number one spot with about 20 minutes to go but the sun then made a surprise appearance and a dry line gradually began to appear, meaning lap times quickly began to tumble. With some wet patches remaining until the end the riders stayed on their wet Bridgestone tyres and lap times remained some ten seconds off the current lap record. Both the Italian and the Spaniard set some fast times at the end, Rossi’s final lap putting him 0.290 seconds off leader Dani Pedrosa with Lorenzo just a couple of tenths slower.
Valentino Rossi Speaks… (Position: 3rd, Time: 1’38.917, Laps: 26)
"These strange conditions are always hard to ride in but it was important that we had some time in the wet today because we were able to understand our level. We’re quite happy because I felt confident and I was able to be fast today. The conditions changed a lot during the hour and by the end it was mostly dry, which meant it was quite hard to ride with the wet tyres but we were still quite fast and in the end we’re third, which is a good start. We’ve got a few modifications to make as usual after a Friday but we have a good base. Tomorrow it seems it will be completely dry so hopefully by the end of the day we will be ready for Sunday, whatever the weather."
Jorge Lorenzo Speaks… (Position: 5th, Time: 1’39.105, Laps: 31)
"I’m really happy about this practice today because I felt comfortable on the bike and was able to brake quite late in the wet. I was pleased that we had a chance in the drier conditions later, because it showed what we need to work on for tomorrow. I had made a lot of laps in the rain so my tyre was quite worn by that time, when it was more dry, but anyway the times weren’t important for me today and I’m just happy about my performance in the wet. We learnt a lot and now we will use this to improve tomorrow."
Davide Brivio Speaks… (Rossi Team Manager)
"To take the positives from the bad weather conditions, today gave us another good chance to test our wet setting, which could come in useful on Sunday when there’s a chance of rain. It was a positive session, with the conditions changing constantly until it was almost dry at the end. It looks like tomorrow will be properly dry so we will hopefully have a chance to complete all the set-up work we need to do in order to be ready for whatever Sunday brings."
Daniele Romagnoli Speaks… (Lorenzo Team Manager)
"We made a good start today and we were able to be very fast on the wet in the first half. At the end, with the track changing rapidly to dry, we encountered a few problems on acceleration, due to too much wear on the tyres after so many laps early on. It’s important that we work on this as on Sunday there’s a chance that the conditions could be similar today. Hopefully tomorrow we can concentrate on our dry setting."
Combined Free Practice Times
1. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda
2. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team
3. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team
4. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda
5. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team
6. Marco Melandri (ITA) Hayate Racing Team
7. Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Racing
8. Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3
9. Toni Elias (SPA) San Carlo Honda Gresini
10. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team
11. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP
12. James Toseland (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech 3
13. Gabor Talmacsi (HUN) Scot Racing Team MotoGP
14. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP
15. Randy De Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP
16. Alex De Angelis (RSM) San Carlo Honda Gresini
17. Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Pramac Racing
Donington Park: Record Lap
D. Pedrosa (Honda) 2006, 1’28.714
Donington Park: Best Lap
D. Pedrosa (Honda) 2006, 1’27.676