In perfect conditions at the Laguna Seca circuit on Friday afternoon, with blue skies, Californian sunshine and temperatures of 24°C, the MotoGP riders got the eighth race weekend of the year underway – the World Champion Valentino Rossi putting down the fastest time late in FP1.
The current MotoGP ‘big three’ were on top again as the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix commenced, Rossi followed on the timesheet by his Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo and Ducati’s Casey Stoner.
Rossi’s 1’21.981s lap around the shortest track on the MotoGP calendar, on the last of his 32 laps, was enough to put him 0.112s ahead of the young pretender to his crown Lorenzo.
A first lap crasher in the 2008 race on his Laguna Seca debut, Lorenzo will aim to put the memories of last year’s contest behind him and already looks comfortable around the picturesque American track.
Stoner was just 0.189s down on Rossi’s pace himself as he tested his condition following the severe exhaustion he has experienced in recent weeks. The 2007 Laguna race-winning Australian is out for revenge over Rossi this weekend following their epic 2008 battle which Rossi won in such style.
In fourth place was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. The Spanish rider is still fighting back to 100% fitness this weekend, although he is already in far better shape than last year when he went home after the Friday practices due to injuries he sustained at Sachsenring.
There was a good start to the weekend for San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Toni Elías who immediately benefitted from the introduction of the new chassis on the Honda RC212V to lap fifth quickest.
Italian pair Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Marco Melandri (Hayate Racing) were sixth and seventh, respectively 0.899s and 1.159s down on the pace.
Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen crashed at the beginning of the session but soon got back out on track to complete 27 laps in total and still managed to go round eighth fastest.
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) rounded out the top ten, whilst Edwards’ compatriot Nicky Hayden made a sluggish start to his American Ducati debut in 14th place.
Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix
Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca
1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha), 1:21.981
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha), 1:22.093
3. Casey Stoner (Ducati), 1:22.170
4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda), 1:22.637
5. Toni Elias (Honda), 1:22.682
6. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda), 1:22.880
7. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki), 1:23.140
8. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki), 1:23.217
9. Colin Edwards (Yamaha), 1:23.285
10. Alex De Angelis (Honda), 1:23.406
11. Randy De Puniet (Honda), 1:23.439
12. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki), 1:23.637
13. James Toseland (Yamaha), 1:23.690
14. Nicky Hayden (Ducati), 1:23.747
15. Sete Gibernau (Ducati), 1:24.533
16. Gabor Talmacsi (Honda), 1:24.926
17. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati), 1:25.511