De Puniet and MotoGP get rolling in Assen (photos)
Alice TT Assen – Thursday 25 June – Report Day 1
LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet sprang a surprise in the first MotoGP practice outing for the Alice TT Assen, occupying the top spot on the timesheet with a 1’37.842 lap that came from out of nowhere late in the session.
For the majority of the hour-long run, Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo had resumed their inter-team tussle by trading fastest laps, but eventually the duo were usurped by flying Frenchman De Puniet and then Lorenzo by Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner -the rider with whom the leaders are tied on 106 points in the overall classification.
Just five-thousandths of a second divided De Puniet and Rossi, with Stoner a further three-hundredths down and Lorenzo only just unable to breach the 1’38 barrier. Trailing the early pacesetters were Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso and Dani Pedrosa, with Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards just behind them, all under half-a-second down on De Puniet.
Adjusting to the track in the first practice run, many riders took a trip into the run-off areas in their quest to find the limit of their 800cc machinery. However, only one rider came off his bike, namely Scot Racing’s Yuki Takahashi. The Japanese rider suffered a highside that left him shaken but apparently uninjured.
Barcelona racewinner Álvaro Bautista kept up his momentum on Thursday, riding fastest of all the 250cc riders. The Mapfre Aspar rider is chasing his fourth pole position of the year, and set himself up well with a 1’40.617 lap.
He was the only rider to break into the 1’40s in the sunny afternoon run, although fellow Spaniard Héctor Barberá came within two-thousandths of a second of joining him. The Pepeworld man was second quickest, with Mike di Meglio, Alex Debón and Mattia Pasini the only riders within a second of Bautista’s crushing fast lap.
Marco Simoncelli’s Barcelona woes continued in Assen with another crash for the reigning World Champion. The Metis Gilera rider -yesterday confirmed as a MotoGP entrant for 2010- lost the front end of his bike midway through the session, and was forced to sit by and watch as his mechanics looked to repair the machine.
World Championship leader Julián Simón was the quickest rider out of the blocks in the opening 125cc practice session, stopping the clock at 1’46.725 onboard his Bancaja Aspar two-stroke machine.
The Spaniard was some dead-on two-tenths of a second quicker than second fastest man Sergio Gadea, his teammate in Jorge Martinez Aspar’s successful 125cc structure. Simón’s lap knocked Gadea off the top spot in the final moments of the session.
Nico Terol, riding as the number one rider for the Jack&Jones WRB team for the first time following the departure of Simone Corsi from the Sito Pons-run outfit, continued the form that had taken him onto the podium in Barcelona two weeks ago, placing third ahead of title contender Bradley Smith in a tight top four.
The final practice sessions for the Alice TT Assen start tomorrow at 9.00am with 125cc action, followed by MotoGP and 250cc. Qualifying for all three classes takes place in the afternoon, a day earlier than is customary in the 2009 season.