The first MotoGP free practice of the Gran Premio d’Italia Alice weekend went with form on Friday afternoon at Mugello, as the top four riders in the World Championship standings ended the day in their corresponding positions.
That meant that Jorge Lorenzo was the man at the top of the timesheet, his best time of 1’49.870 on the 20th of his 27 laps in the hour long session giving him an early psychological advantage.
Lorenzo was the only rider to go under the 1’50 mark, with his Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi two-tenths of a second behind him in second place. Rossi, the winner of the last seven visits to Mugello, will be out to stop his young colleague from gaining any further championship advantage over the next 48 hours.
In third place Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner kept the Ducatisti happy, his bright red Desmosedici GP9 gleaming in the beautiful Italian sunshine as he lapped 0.274 behind Lorenzo.
Fourth in the championship and making ground on the top three in recent weeks Dani Pedrosa was also fourth in the session with his best time of 1’50.808, putting the Repsol Honda man just under a second behind compatriot and rival Lorenzo, as several riders – including Pedrosa – went close to top speed records for the Italian track.
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) set the fifth quickest FP1 lap time, with sixth fastest rider Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) lapping at a similar pace to the American and Pedrosa. De Angelis ran off track at one point at the circuit where he achieved his best result of 2008, a fourth place, in his rookie campaign.
Veteran Italian rider Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) commenced his home GP in seventh place on the timesheet, whilst Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) showed his good form again in eighth. The top ten was rounded off by Italian pair Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Marco Melandri (Hayate Racing).
Niccolò Canepa (Pramac Racing) was the only crasher in the session as his home GP commenced in unspectacular fashion, the Ducati rider finishing 14th overall.
World Championship leader Álvaro Bautista (Mapfre Aspar) set out his stall in the 250cc category, the Spanish rider wrapping up FP1 0.244s ahead of closest rival Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Racing), who incidentally also sits second in the general standings.
Bautista’s best time of 1’53.814 on the last of his 26 laps will give him confidence overnight as he seeks to extend his lead at the top of the standings this weekend – at the home track of fellow title candidate and reigning 250cc World Champion Marco Simoncelli. Indeed, an off-colour Simoncelli was down in eighth in this session, more than a second behind Bautista.
There was plenty of Spanish representation at the head of the timesheet as Héctor Barberá (Pepe World Team) and Alex Debon (Aeropuerto-Castello-Blusens) lapped third and fourth fastest respectively, whilst Italian competitor Raffaele de Rosa (Scot Racing) completed the top five.
Friday’s action had got underway earlier in the afternoon with a familiar figure at the head of the 125cc timesheet in free practice 1 as another World Championship leading Spaniard, Julián Simón, went round quicker than any of his single cylinder rivals.
The Bancaja Aspar rider, who leads the standings by 5.5 points from team-mate Bradley Smith, set the pace with a 1’59.437s lap towards the end of the session – to send out a message to the rest of the 125cc field.
Closest to Simón on this occasion was another team-mate, Sergio Gadea, who lapped 0.284 behind his compatriot. Home rider and a double race winner already this year Andrea Iannone (Ongetta Team I.S.P.A.) was third fastest with a similar time to Gadea, whilst aforementioned Englishman Smith was fourth, less than half a second behind Simón. Nico Terol (Jack & Jones Team) was half a second off the pace in fifth.