2008 Sepang Day 1 Report

The first day at Sepang was a strange affair, with weather playing a major role, as expected. Though the expected thunderstorms didn't roll in while the bikes were on track, conditions were hot and humid, and a light drizzle blighted the afternoon session for 20 minutes or so.

Valentino Rossi set the mark in the morning, the only man to post a time in the 2'02 bracket in the dying moments of the session, but in the afternoon, it was clearly contract time. Shinya Nakano dominated the session almost from the off, quickly setting the fastest time, a low 2'03, and once the drizzle started 20 minutes in, his time went unchallenged.

Most of the grid spent much of the next 20 minutes in their garages, venturing out only sporadically, with only the truly desperate putting in a lot of laps. The light drizzle meant that any data gathered would be of little use in either the dry or the wet, as times were several seconds off the pace, but there was not enough water on the track to break out even intermediate tires.

Once the rain stopped, and the track dried out, the garages emptied their riders onto the track in a rush to the end of the session. Everyone was out on track, people only popping briefly back into the pits for a new tire and a quick conference with their pit crew. And everyone was drastically improving their time.

It was a testament to Nakano's first fast lap that his time stood for so long. He was the only man to beat his own time until the last minute of the session, when Valentino Rossi came flying past, followed shortly by Casey Stoner. But even Stoner's time would not last, as it was Colin Edwards who ended up with the fastest time, putting in a seriously fast time on his final lap.

So Edwards sits atop the timesheets, with a lap of 2'02.667, over half a second off lap record time, ahead of Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner. All three men are the only riders to get inside of 2'02, but Rossi failed to improve his time in the afternoon.

Shinya Nakano ended the day with the 4th fastest time, ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa. The jump was important for Pedrosa, as he had finished the morning session down in 17th place.

With the weather uncertain, the times set today, and tomorrow during the morning's FP3 session could turn out to be crucial. Everyone still remembers 2006 and the canceled qualifying session fresh in their minds, and so there is some preliminary jockeying for position going on. Don't be surprised if some qualifiers go on on Saturday morning if the weather forecast looks poor for the afternoon. The grid could well be settled already if the heavens open.


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