Instead of rising sun at Motegi on Saturday morning it was a case of discovering the land of the falling rain for Colin Edwards at the Polini Grand Prix of Japan, as he held off his rivals to finish on top by a 0.052s margin from former colleague Valentino Rossi.
The Texas Tornado mastered the tricky weather conditions to take the psychological advantage ahead of afternoon qualifying at the Twin Ring track, which is likely to be run in very similar conditions as heavy rain continues to fall. Edwards’ best time of 2’01.841 on his satellite Yamaha M1 came on the penultimate of his 18 laps .
Fastest on Friday, 2008 race winner Rossi also registered his best time right at the end of the run, to keep himself ahead of championship rival Casey Stoner.
Ducati Marlboro’s 2007 MotoGP title winner Stoner was the only non-Yamaha rider in the top four which also featured Fiat Yamaha’s podium hopeful Jorge Lorenzo. The top five was rounded off by Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen.
Like Vermeulen, Stoner’s Ducati colleague Nicky Hayden surged up the timesheets late in the session to finish up sixth, despite both riders running off track at one stage.
Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) was well placed again in seventh, despite an inconsequential crash 20 minutes in, as he seeks to build on his solid start to the season in Qatar. Sete Gibernau (Grupo Francisco Hernando) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) were eighth and ninth respectively.
Dani Pedrosa rounded off the top ten, just ahead of new Repsol Honda team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, as the fastest factory Honda rider in the session.
In addition to Vermeulen and Hayden, Yuki Takahashi (Scot Racing) and Toni Elías (San Carlo Honda Gresini) also made brief off-track excursions but were soon back on the asphalt.