After the cold drizzle of Le Mans, MotoGP hit Mugello under a sweltering Tuscan sun. The heat met with no complaints, however, as everyone in the paddock is sick to death of the wet weather which seems to follow them wherever they go.
As the bikes took to the track, Valentino Rossi did his best Casey Stoner impression, being fastest out of the gate, and staying on top for the first 20 minutes of the session. At that point, the rest of the Fantastic Four started to catch up, and leapfrogged each other for the lead. First Casey Stoner took the top spot, then with 32 minutes left Jorge Lorenzo took back the fastest time for the Fiat Yamaha team, only for Stoner to take it back again 5 minutes later.
With a quarter of the session left, Valentino Rossi reasserted himself atop the timesheets as Master of Mugello, but his team mate refused to be impressed. The young Spaniard took top spot again with 11 minutes to go, smashing the race lap record in the process and cracking into the 1'49s. Lorenzo then continued to set a string of lightning fast laps, eventually running three laps inside the 1'49s.
Valentino Rossi was left down in 2nd spot, just under 2/10ths off his Fiat Yamaha team mate, but capable of about the same kind of race pace. If The Doctor planned a spot of psychological warfare at Mugello, by coming out fast and trying to dominate practice, he ended up hoist by his own petard, coming up against a truly remarkable Jorge Lorenzo. But Rossi always has something special at the Tuscan track, so no doubt he'll be even faster tomorrow.
Casey Stoner professed himself satisfied with 3rd spot, having spent part of the session alternating between the carbon fiber and aluminium swingarms for his Ducati GP9, in an attempt to identify a solution to the one area the team struggles with the carbon fiber item. Despite using FP1 as a glorified test session, Stoner still finished the hour just over a quarter of a second behind Jorge Lorenzo, and lapping consistently just a couple of tenths slower than the Spaniard.
Behind Stoner, a gap of nearly 7/10ths opened up to 4th place man Dani Pedrosa. There's nothing wrong with the Honda's top speed - Pedrosa set a new speed record at Mugello, clocking a top speed of 349.3 kilometers per hour, or over 217 mph, down Mugello's fast front straight - but Pedrosa is still having problems with corner entry, braking and changing direction, something which happens a lot at Mugello. The Repsol Honda team will have to find some solutions to this if Pedrosa is to be a factor on Sunday.
Colin Edwards finished 5th fastest, and was roughly on the pace for most of the session, and quickly up to speed. Behind Edwards, Alex de Angelis proved that he has a little something extra at Mugello, setting the 6th fastest time and looking in contention.
While Casey Stoner was clearly quick, once again, the rest of the Ducatis linger way down the field. Mika Kallio struggled with setup, and finished at the bottom of the timesheets in 17th, a place which Nicky Hayden occupied for most of the session, before picking up a couple of seconds to lift him into 15th. Niccolo Canepa looked a lot more competitive at the track he knows best, making it all the way up to 10th place at one point, before sliding off a lap later. In the end, the Italian rookie ended the day in 14th, better than his usual results.
Afterwards, Nicky Hayden admitted that his struggles with the Ducati are starting to demoralize him. "It's getting hard to try and put a positive spin on it," Hayden told MotoGP.com. He admitted that the reduction in testing has hit him hard. He is no longer able to go out on a Monday or Tuesday after a Grand Prix and ride hundreds of laps looking for a solution. As the year progresses, Hayden's season is looking more and more like Marco Melandri's did last year. Only Hayden's mental toughness is keeping him going at this point.
Dani Pedrosa's new speed record raised a few eyebrows, and finally gave the lie to the capacity reduction from 990cc down to 800 at the end of the 2006 season. Intended as a safety measure to reduce top speeds, the 800s broke lap records in their very first season, and are now faster everywhere than the older bikes. What's more, with a lower crank inertia making them turn quicker, the bikes are going much faster through the corners, the place where bikes are most likely to crash. With Pedrosa hitting nearly 350 km/h at Mugello, nobody believes in the myth of the "safety bikes" any longer.
In the 250 class, Alvaro Bautista took the top spot, after being quick for most of the session. Bautista swapped the lead with Hector Barbera for the second half of FP2, but Bautista came out on top with two very fast laps in the dying seconds, displacing Hiroshi Aoyama who had taken the lead with 10 minutes to go. Barbera ended the session in 3rd, ahead of fellow Spaniard Alex Debon in 4th.
Marco Simoncelli had an invisible session, never capable of running anywhere close to the front of the pack, and finishing down in 8th place, and over a second behind Bautista. There was also news that would have cheered Gabor Talmacsi, sitting at home after a dispute with the Aspar team. Balazs Nemeth, the man brought in to replace him, finished the session dead last, and outside the qualification limit.
In the 125cc class, the Aspar team continued their domination, taking 3 of the top 4 spots. Julian Simon was the fastest of the bunch, as he had been for most of FP1, finishing just over a quarter of a second ahead of his team mate Sergio Gadea. Only Andrea Iannone spoiled the Aspar fun, finishing in 3rd spot ahead of Bradley Smith.
German rider Stefan Bradl was fast for much of the session, but crashed towards the end, and got up holding his wrist. The time Bradl had already set was good enough for 6th place, though a question remains over how badly his wrist is injured.
British riders Scott Redding and Danny Webb had a reasonable start to the weekend, ending up in 9th and 13th respectively, but American rider Cameron Beaubier was less fortunate. The KTM rider crashed after just 3 laps, and did not return. No word as yet on his condition. Honorable mention must also go to Lorenzo Savadori. The Italian rookie has struggled in his first year, but he ended the day at his home track with a very respectable 10th fastest time.
Practice continues tomorrow morning, with qualifying for all three classes in the afternoon.