Home trio reign in Spain at opening Jerez sessions2007-03-23 10:45
The opening practice sessions for the Gran Premio bwin.com de España took place today, with temperatures pleasantly warm at the Circuito de Jerez in Andalusia. The riders were able to make the most of every moment on track, in contrast to some of the preseason tests in Spain which were hit by adverse conditions.
On a day of surprise timesheet-toppers at Jerez, Carlos Checa took the early advantage at today's practice session to complete an all-Spanish fastest three. The LCR Honda rider clocked a time of 1'40.851, with little more than a tenth of a second separating him and countrymen Dani Pedrosa and Toni Elias.
After Valentino Rossi's triumph at the 'qualifying' session of last month's Official MotoGP Test, and the awesome top speeds reached by Ducati at the opening race in Qatar, Honda will be pleased to have their trio at the head of the timesheets today. Casey Stoner, who so impressed with his performance at Losail less than two weeks ago, was fourth fastest ahead of Kenny Roberts Jr., the morning's quickest rider.
Five-time MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi was the final rider in the top six, although by no means off the pace in a tightly packed hour long final session. John Hopkins, who missed the final preseason test at Jerez due to a hand injury, was still obviously suffering from the after-effects during the session, clearly in pain as he sat in his pit in the early stages of the session. He was ahead of team-mate Chris Vermeulen, Colin Edwards and Alex Barros, whilst World Champion Nicky Hayden once again couldn't quite find his rhythm at the Spanish circuit down in 13th. The American was a mere seven-tenths of a second off Checa's best time, but must use tomorrow's final day of practice to get into the groove before he kickstarts his title defence in earnest in Sunday's race.
Last year's 250cc racewinner Jorge Lorenzo followed up his victory in round one at Qatar with a storming performance in the opening qualifying session. The reigning World Champion was nearly a second faster than second placed Marco Simoncelli after a hot lap of 1'43.145, laying down the gauntlet for his quarter-litre rivals.
Hector Barbera and Roberto Locatelli were the final two riders on the provisional front row which, apart from Lorenzo, were separated by just one hundredth of a second. They headed the factory Honda duo of Shuhei Aoyama and Julian Simon, with 2006 125cc victor Alvaro Bautista in seventh. Fabrizio Lai, Andrea Dovizioso and Thomas Luthi completed the top ten.
There was a light crash for Imre Toth, whilst Aleix Espargaro ran off track in the session.
Mattia Pasini took charge at Jerez to take provisional pole for Sunday's 125cc race, with a time of 1'47.371 putting him ahead of morning pacesetter Gabor Talmacsi in the opening qualifying session. The Italian was less than 2 tenths ahead of his Hungarian rival, with the duo the only riders to go round in under 1'48.
Tomoyoshi Koyama and Lukas Pesek rounded off the provisional front row, with the latter suffering a spectacular crash late on in the session in which his bike highsided, colliding with Sergio Gadea as it came to a stop. The session also saw incidents involving Stefano Bianco and Randy Krummenacher, with a number of riders also experiencing lowside tumbles at the Spanish track.
Simone Corsi, World Championship leader Hector Faubel, Raffaele de Rosa, Michael Ranseder, Alexis Masbou and Andrea Iannone completed the top ten in the lower cylinder category.
Riding after the three MotoGP classes, the youngsters of the Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup took to the track for their first ever practice sessions. Johann Zarco was the fastest of the rookies, ahead of Luis Salom, Cameron Beaubier and Cyril Carrillo. The competition is running alongside the MotoGP World Championship at seven European races this season.
The riders will be back on track from 9am local time tomorrow, with final qualifying sessions for the Gran Premio bwin.com de España taking place in the afternoon.
Source: Dorna Communications
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