Valentino Rossi signalled his intent for a return to the top of the podium with a commanding performance in free practice today, topping the time sheets at a sun-soaked Jerez de la Frontera. Jorge Lorenzo, making a triumphant return to home soil following his victory in Japan last weekend, finished the session in fourth.
After the bad weather at the last two rounds the paddock breathed a sigh of relief today to see blue skies and Spanish sunshine and the Fiat Yamaha Team riders were delighted to be riding in such conditions once again. Rossi, who currently lies one point behind his team-mate in the championship standings, made a few changes to his base setting and reaped the rewards immediately, finishing 0.364 seconds ahead of his compatriot Loris Capirossi.
Having been consistently fast at the test here in March, Lorenzo was expecting to make a good start but the Mallorcan encountered a few unexpected problems in acceleration and wasn’t able to match the pace of his team-mate. He will be looking to considerably reduce the gap to the Italian tomorrow during the second practice and qualifying sessions.
1st – Valentino Rossi Speaks…
"Today there’s no prize, like at the test here, but anyway it’s really good for our work to start in such a positive way. During the first two races we’ve had a couple of small problems and today we made a change in our setting in order to improve things and straight away we could see it was working. I could ride how I wanted with both the soft Bridgestone tyre and the hard one, and I was the fastest for the whole session. It’s very hot today, which is for sure better than the rain of recent races but it means if it’s like this on Sunday then the race will be quite hard on the tyres, so tomorrow we need to concentrate on refining our setting to help them as much as possible."
4th – Jorge Lorenzo Speaks…
"It’s nice to be back in Spain and in the sunshine, but I am a bit disappointed about the day. I had a problem at the start with my helmet and we were delayed to go out on track. Once I got started I felt good with the soft Bridgestone tyre, but when we tried the hard one later we had a few problems and the bike didn’t feel completely stable. Tomorrow we need to come back to a different setting and I hope things will be better."
In addition to Rossi and Lozenzo, two other riders who also performed well in the final preseason test at Jerez, namely Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi (1’40.011) and Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner (1’40.268), respectively, whilst Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso was around a second adrift of Rossi’s pace to complete a top five which featured four different manufacturers.
The likes of Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki), Marco Melandri (Hayate Racing) and Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) all registered top ten times, Pedrosa lapping a second and a half off the quickest pace.
Combined Free Practice Times
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’39.647
2. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’40.011
3. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1’40.268
4. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1’40.441
5. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda 1’40.601
6. Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’40.703
7. Randy De Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP 1’40.866
8. Chris Vermeulen (AUS) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1’41.063
9. Marco Melandri (ITA) Hayate Racing Team 1’41.182
10. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda 1’41.208
11. James Toseland (GBR) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1’41.461
12. Sete Gibernau (SPA) Grupo Francisco Hernando 1’41.531
13. Alex De Angelis (RSM) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’41.557
14. Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Racing 1’41.584
15. Toni Elias (SPA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1’41.736
16. Yuki Takahashi (JPN) Scot Racing Team 1’41.898
17. Niccolo Canepa (ITA) Pramac Racing 1’42.063
Jerez: Record Lap
D. Pedrosa (Honda) 2008, 1’40.116
Jerez: Best Lap
J. Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2008, 1’38.189