This afternoon's practice session at Jerez was a much balmier affair, temperatures some 20 degrees fahrenheit warmer than this morning, and the timesheet reflected it, the running order being shaken up with respect to this morning.
Early in the session, Casey Stoner was the first to set a competitive time, taking 1/100th of a second off the time Kenny Roberts Jr set this morning. Stoner's time lasted until halfway through the session, until local hero Dani Pedrosa dipped under the 1'41 barrier. Pedrosa's time stood for another quarter of an hour, until Carlos Checa took first a few thousandths, and then 5/100ths of a second off Pedrosa's time, with 15 minutes left in the session. Checa's time was fast enough not to be beaten for the rest of the day.
The two Spanish Honda riders had 1/10th of a second buffer over Hannspree Honda rider Toni Elias, who had another 0.2 seconds gap on 4th place Ducati man Casey Stoner. Kenny Roberts Jr failed to improve on his time from this morning, but that was still good enough for 5th, ahead of Valentino Rossi, who had moved up since this morning.
The Rizla Suzukis of John Hopkins and Chris Vermeulen set the 7th and 8th fastest time, Hopkins still visibly in pain from the wrist injury he suffered at Qatar over a month ago. Behind Vermeulen, Colin Edwards took 9th on the Fiat Yamaha ahead of Pramac Ducati's Alex Barros.
Not too much stock should be set by the running order, as the times are all incredibly close past the top 3. Less than half a second covers 4th place Casey Stoner and 14th place Randy de Puniet, and the top 15 times are all within 1 second of each other.
The most impressive rider of the afternoon session was without doubt Carlos Checa. Checa was consistently fast throughout, setting strings of laps in the low 1'41 and high 1'40 bracket. Checa looked totally at home on the RC212V, which is unusual, as Checa is one of the larger riders in the paddock, and had been complaining of a lack of space on board the new Honda 800, along with Nicky Hayden. Over the off-season, Checa had set about losing several pounds to minimize his weight disadvantage on the smaller bike, leaving the Spaniard looking painfully thin. But his perseverance definitely looks like it has paid off at Jerez so far, as if Checa can run the same times on Sunday that he ran today, he could well be a candidate for the podium.
Looking at the full lap sheets (available from the MotoGP.com site as "analysis") throws up some interesting surprises. Dani Pedrosa's 2nd fastest time is impressive, but he failed to put together sequences of fast laps, his long runs containing mostly laps of around 1'41.8 and 1'41.9. This bodes less well for race day.
So who was putting in the sequences of fast laps? Apart from Carlos Checa, Casey Stoner was running mid 1'41s, and Valentino Rossi was running low to mid 1'41s. Behind Stoner and Rossi, there are a bunch of people running consistently in the 1'41.6 to 1'41.9 range, including Dani Pedrosa, Toni Elias, Kenny Roberts Jr, John Hopkins, Chris Vermeulen and Colin Edwards.
So far, Sunday's race is shaping up to be another showdown between Stoner and Rossi, with Carlos Checa complicating matters, and a big bunch of riders chasing the leaders to the end. But before the race, we have one more free practice session, and the small matter of qualifying to go.
|Pos.||#||Rider||Team||FP 1||FP 2||Diff 1st||Diff Prev.|
|2||26||D.PEDROSA||Repsol Honda Team||1'41.959||1'40.906||0.055||0.055|
|4||27||C.STONER||Ducati Marlboro Team||1'41.450||1'41.171||0.320||0.199|
|5||10||K.ROBERTS JR||Team Roberts||1'41.182||1'41.201||0.331||0.011|
|6||46||V.ROSSI||Fiat Yamaha Team||1'42.057||1'41.198||0.347||0.016|
|7||21||J.HOPKINS||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||1'41.860||1'41.245||0.394||0.047|
|8||71||C.VERMEULEN||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||1'42.269||1'41.305||0.454||0.060|
|9||5||C.EDWARDS||Fiat Yamaha Team||1'42.078||1'41.339||0.488||0.034|
|11||65||L.CAPIROSSI||Ducati Marlboro Team||1'42.427||1'41.409||0.558||0.047|
|13||1||N.HAYDEN||Repsol Honda Team||1'41.566||1'41.536||0.685||0.118|
|14||14||R.DE PUNIET||Kawasaki Racing Team||1'42.892||1'41.666||0.815||0.130|
|16||6||M.TAMADA||Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3||1'43.309||1'42.097||1.246||0.262|
|17||56||S.NAKANO||Konica Minolta Honda||1'42.199||1'42.424||1.348||0.102|
|18||50||S.GUINTOLI||Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3||1'43.161||1'42.311||1.460||0.112|
|19||19||O.JACQUE||Kawasaki Racing Team||1'42.997||1'42.402||1.551||0.091|
|20||64||K.AKIYOSHI||Rizla Suzuki MotoGP||1'44.168||1'42.549||1.698||0.147|
Existing Circuit Records:
|Fastest Lap: Lap 25||Kenny ROBERTS JR||1'41.182||157.367 Km/h|
|Circuit Record Lap: 2006||Valentino ROSSI||1'40.596||158.284 Km/h|
|Circuit Best Lap: 2006||Loris CAPIROSSI||1'39.064||160.732 Km/h|
Fastest lap from IRTA Test 2007: