Valentino Rossi stamped his authority on the opening MotoGP practice session of the weekend with the fastest time of Friday afternoon at Barcelona, lapping the track used for the Gran Premi Cinzano de Catalunya in 1’43.038 on his Fiat Yamaha M1 -in conditions in which ambient temperatures reached 35°C and the asphalt 50°C.
Behind Rossi on the timesheet was his factory Yamaha colleague Jorge Lorenzo, who was 0.302s off the World Champion’s pace on a far better Friday than last year at his home track. In 2008 he crashed in practice and missed the race due to a concussion.
Third on the timesheet was Mugello racewinner and 2007 Barcelona victor Casey Stoner, who went round just over half a second slower than Rossi on his Ducati Desmosedici, despite a small crash near the end of the session.
Fourth on the timesheet just as he has been in the last two MotoGP races, Andrea Dovizioso put in a similar time to Stoner under the intense heat. Dovizioso’s injured Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, however, was down in 14th place as he tested the condition of his injured hip.
At one of his favourite tracks, Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) was fifth fastest, whilst a big improvement by Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden saw him finish sixth quickest in one of his best sessions of the season so far – around a second off the pace.
Veteran riders Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) and Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) were seventh and eighth respectively. Yuki Takahashi was number nine on the timesheet, joined by new MotoGP recruit Gabor Talmacsi in the Scot Racing Team for the session and the remainder of the season in the surprise development of the season.
In the 250cc practice Spaniard Alex Debón (Aeropuerto-Castello-Blusens) picked up the pace at his latest home round in the final outing of the day. He was on pole at the last Spanish visit, which took place in Jerez.
As the 250cc men jostled for positions right at the end of the practice, Debón’s 1’47.291 time was enough to put him at the head of the timesheet by just a 0.038s margin, in front of compatriot Álvaro Bautista (Mapfre Aspar Team).
Japan’s Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Racing Team), Italy’s Mugello race-winner Mattia Pasini (Team Toth Aprilia) and Frenchman Mike di Meglio (Mapfre Aspar) – the reigning 125cc World Champion – were also in the top five.
With sunny conditions expected all weekend in Barcelona the 125cc riders commenced the action earlier in the afternoon on an already hot track, with Bancaja Aspar’s Julián Simón showing no signs of wilting as he marked a 1’52.311 time, on the 15th of his 19 laps.
It was an all-Spanish dominated top four in the session, courtesy of the efforts of Simón’s team-mate Sergio Gadea, Nico Terol (Jack & Jones Team) and local rider Pol Espargaró (Derbi Racing Team), who all lapped within a second of the paceman, whilst Italian Lorenzo Zanetti (Ongetta Team I.S.P.A.) also featured in the top quintet.
Practice in Barcelona continues on Saturday, with qualifying to follow in the afternoon.