Mugello started as Le Mans left off: With threatening weather conditions, which deteriorated as the day went on. The morning's session took place under dark skies, but remained dry, and it was Dani Pedrosa who set the fastest time. More impressively, Pedrosa was fast from early on, setting the fastest time halfway through the session, and staying nearly a second faster than the rest of the field for much of practice. It was only at the end that the rest started to catch up, with Valentino Rossi and John Hopkins within 3/10ths of a second. Casey Stoner and Carlos Checa followed, another 3/10ths behind Hopkins.
The afternoon's session took place in a downpour, with most of the riders deciding to wait before going out, in the hope that the rain might let up later in the session. It never did get any better, so by halfway through, just about the entire field was out. The exception was Kenny Roberts Jr, who went out almost from the beginning of the session, in search of precious development data, hoping to squeeze some improvement out of the KR212V. His efforts were eventually rewarded, finally setting the 5th fastest time of the session. KRJR was joined early in the session by Carlos Checa, who was quickest until near the end, finally slipping to 12th.
And much as at Le Mans, it was Chris Vermeulen who was quick in the rain. Lap after lap, the Australian Suzuki man improved his times, looking like being the fastest man of the afternoon. But it wasn't to be: in the dying minutes of the session, his time was beaten first by his team mate John Hopkins, and then by his compatriate Casey Stoner. The Ducati rider ended up being fastest in the afternoon, an impressive performance, considering he only completed 7 full laps during the session. Hopkins was second, ahead of team mate Vermeulen. The top three were all very close, though, within 1/10th of a second, but once past the top three, times were all over the place, with over 7 seconds between 3rd and 15th.
Valentino Rossi took 4th, suffering a fall at the end of the session, losing the front in the difficult conditions. Conditions were so awful that almost everyone was suffering aquaplaning down the front straight, and the sound of rear wheels spinning up under power in almost every gear filled the track.
The weather for the remainder of the weekend looks hard to predict, with rain possible on every day. This will make it very difficult for the riders to find a set up which will work on Sunday, and makes predicting a winner nigh on impossible. Tomorrow we will learn more.