After a thrilling first outing in Qatar, the first European round of the MotoGPChampionship 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.
The first day of Moto2™ practice saw Frenchman Johann Zarco, riding for the JIR Moto2 squad, set the fastest time of the day with a 1.55´382 late on in the morning session, in front of Marc VDS's Mika Kallio, who set a time in the afternoon just under three tenths behind.
Third place overall went to Arguiñano Racing Team's local rider Ricky Cardus on his AJR bike, ahead of Ant West on his QMMF Racing Team's Moriwaki. Speed Master's Andrea Iannone did not complete many laps in the second session, yet his time of 1.56´258 in the morning was enough to secure fifth.
Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol's Marc Márquez, who many expected to be at the top, finished the day in sixth, ahead of Belgian rider Xavier Simeon from the Tech3 Racing Team.
Qatar's pole sitter, Interwetten-Paddock's Thom Lüthi was an exact second off Zarcos time at the top, displacing a resurgent Axel Pons, racing for the Pons 40 HP Tuenti team. Rounding out the top ten was NGM Mobile Forward Racing's Alex de Angelis, a mere three tenths behind Pons.
Italian Rookie Romano Fenati of Team Italia FMI laid down the gauntlet in the Moto3™ class, topping the timesheets with a time of 1.49´760 in front of championship leader Maverick Viñales and last year´s pole sitter Sandro Cortese.
All of the riders' fast laps came in this morning´s dry session, and it was title favorite Maverick Viñales of the Blusens Avintia squad who topped the timesheets early on with Estrella Galicia 0,0's Miguel Oliveira and RW Racing GP's Luis Salom in tow.
It was however Fenati who soon shot out in front, beating Viñales' time by just over two tenths. Red Bull KTM Ajo´s German rider Sandro Cortese soon upped the pace and put his bike third in the standings a further two tenths off.
Oliveira and Salóm finished fourth and fifth respectively, followed by a resurgent Héctor Faubel, riding for the Bankia Aspar Team. Faubel did however suffer a heavy crash in the latter stages, yet was able to take part in the afternoon session.
Cortese's team mates Arthur Sissis and Danny Kent continued their impressive form to occupy seventh and eight spot, with Redox-Ongetta-Centro Seta rider Jakub Kornfeil in ninth. Rounding out the top ten was Faubel's team mate Alberto Moncayo.