Fiat Yamaha’s reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi began his quest to repeat his 2008 Misano victory with Friday’s fastest practice time at the Gran Premio Cinzano di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini, ahead of his young Spanish team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.
Rossi’s 1’35.304s lap at the end of the hour-long practice was not matched by any of his rivals, with Lorenzo coming closest as he lapped 0.126s behind the Italian. Lorenzo was second at Misano last season and he will need to beat his illustrious colleague if he wishes to keep up the pressure in the title race.
Repsol Honda pair Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso were third and fifth respectively on the timesheet on their RC212V factory machines. Pedrosa trailed Rossi by 0.776s as the MotoGP big guns flexed their muscles on the opening day, though the Spaniard appeared to suffer a technical fault at the end of the practice and was taken back to his pit-box by a steward.
San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alex de Angelis continued his good rhythm from last weekend to lap fourth fastest overall, the San Marino rider still aiming to secure a ride for 2010. De Angelis recovered well from a minor crash earlier in the session to mark his best time late on.
Also riding at his home track Dovizioso was around a second off the pace and will therefore aim to step it up on Saturday, as his strives to challenge for the podium this weekend.
Also featuring in the Friday top ten were Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Mika Kallio (Ducati Marlboro), Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki), James Toseland (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro), who all went round within 1.5s of Rossi’s best time.
Héctor Barberá (Pepe World Team) topped the 250cc timesheet by a considerable margin. The Spanish rider produced a best time of 1’39.212 on the 24th of his 28 laps, with only Mattia Pasini (Team Toth Aprilia) able to get within half a second of Barberá’s pace.
The category’s leading two riders Hiroshi Aoyama (Scot Racing Team) and Álvaro Bautista (Mapfre Aspar Team) both marked their best times with their final laps, the pair of them going round just under a second slower than Barberá.
Bautista’s team-mate Mike di Meglio was fifth fastest, ahead of seventh placed World Champion Marco Simoncelli (Metis Gilera).
The top ten also comprised the names of Héctor Faubel (Valencia CF – Honda SAG), Alex Debon (Aeropuerto-Castello-Blusens), Jules Cluzel (Matteoni Racing) and Ratthapark Wilairot (Thai Honda PTT SAG).
In the 125cc class Bancaja Aspar’s teenage British rider Bradley Smith started the weekend on the front foot, when he put down a 1’45.297 marker in the final seconds of the first free practice.
The 18 year-old from Oxfordshire – who was second in the 125cc Misano race last season – put in several fast laps at the end of the session to leapfrog his team-mate Julián Simón on the timesheet, with a 0.323s gap separating the pair as proceedings drew to a close.
Andrea Iannone (Ongetta Team I.S.P.A.) was 0.158s behind standings leader Simón, whilst Stefan Bradl (Viessmann Kiefer Racing) and Efrén Vázquez (Derbi Racing Team) were not far behind.
A session which was held in perfect riding conditions also featured Sergio Gadea (Bancaja Aspar), Indianapolis winner Pol Espargaró (Derbi Racing Team), Simone Corsi (Fontana Racing), wildcard Riccardo Moretti (Ellegi Racing) and Dominique Aegerter (Ajo Interwetten) in the top ten.