After a thrilling first outing in Qatar, the first European round of the MotoGP™ Championship at the Gran Premio bwin de España in Jerez got underway today, with ever changing weather and track conditions giving the riders a challenge right from the off. The majority chose not to go out in the morning session, with conditions too unpredictable and the session being somewhat of a washout. Yet once things did get underway, Repsol Honda Team's Dani Pedrosa topped the timesheets in the afternoon practice session, laying down the marker for his rivals.
It was Ducati Team's Valentino Rossi who was the surprise pace setter early on, yet Pedrosa soon went fastest with a 1.50´780. Rossi had predicted that the wet conditions may suit him and his Ducati, and he didn´t disappoint at the track where he has won a total of eight times, yet was still almost seven tenths down on the Spaniard.
Yamaha Factory Racing's Jorge Lorenzo, who won last year´s race in the wet, did a limited number of laps, yet put his bike in third place overall. He was followed by Pedrosa's team mate and World Champion Casey Stoner, who had a somewhat subdued session for his standards.
Taking confidence from Rossi's performance, the Italian's team mate Nicky Hayden lapped sixth fasted on the Andalucian circuit, with Monster Yamaha Tech3´s Andrea Dovizioso in tow.
San Carlo Honda Gresini´s Alvaro Bautista placed his satellite Honda in seventh in front of his home crowd, while Tech3´s Cal Crutchlow, who had impressed in Qatar, was in eighth. Crutchlow was once again faster than factory Yamaha rider Ben Spies, who could only manage ninth.
Rounding out the top ten was German rookie Stefan Bradl with his LCR Honda MotoGP machine, who dared a late run on slick tyres as the track dried out towards the end. He could not however improve on his earlier time.
An early casualty of the wet conditions was Speed Master CRT entry Mattia Pasini, who crashed going into turn 13. He escaped unscathed and ended up posting the 12th fastest time. Yet top CRT spot for the afternoon session went to Power Electronics Aspar's Randy de Puniet in 11th.
On a day where both MotoGP practice sessions had fluctuating wet and drying conditions, it was tough to gauge any real form from riders, as many will have been saving their wet tyre allocation for QP tomorrow. Yet Avinitia Blusens rider Iván Silva will no doubt enjoy seeing his name top of the combined timesheets with a time he set very early in the morning session.