Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi topped Friday’s sole MotoGP practice session at Twin Ring Motegi with a last lap that narrowly edged out Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner.Stoner had set the pace in the early going and sat atop the time sheets for most of the 45-minute session, held on a cool overcast early afternoon at the Honda-owned 2.98-mile circuit a few hours north of Tokyo. Stoner’s best lap of 1:48.601 came on the 12th of 16 total laps and secured his position until the very end when Rossi clocked his lap of 1:48.545 mins. to claim overnight bragging honors and little else.The time was well off the Jorge Lorenzo’s benchmark 1:45.543 from last year’s qualifying and also short of Rossi’s own circuit record lap of 1:47.288 from 2006.More important than the outright time was the track time. Saturday’s forecast calls for rain, which means today’s laps could be the only dry track time for the riders prior to Sunday’s second round of the MotoGP World Championship. The forecast for Sunday is unsettled, with some forecasting the chance of showers at 70% and others much less.”This is a very good start because we’re at the top and this is very important,” Rossi said. “The conditions today were hard and it was difficult to reach the limit and work to the maximum with the bike and tires, but it looks like we have a good potential here so I am happy.”It’s important to be in front, even though it’s only Friday, because in Qatar we were second in every session and really we don’t like second so much; for sure first is much better! Tomorrow it seems it may rain but we haven’t had the chance to try the new Bridgestone rain tires yet, so I think that this could be an important chance for us to understand how they are. It will be interesting and I hope they are good!”Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha) was third fastest at a deficit of .364 secs. to Stoner. The Spaniard clocked the fastest top speed of 182.745 mph on the back straight.Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen was fourth fastest, .417 of a second behind Lorenzo and the last rider on the lead second.Monster Energy Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards finished the practice session fifth in front of Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi.The next two riders, Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso and Hayate Racing Team’s Marco Melandri (Kaw), were within .143 of a second of Capirossi.San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Toni Elias and Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s James Toseland rounded out the top 10.Repsol Honda’s still recovering Dani Pedrosa-he had surgery just over a month ago-finished 11th in front of his ex-teammate Nicky Hayden. Hayden, who finished just .002 secs. behind Pedrosa and 1.848 behind Rossi, had been farther down the order until his final lap of 1:50.393 mins. moved him up the order.MotoGP Practice:1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:48.5452. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:48.6013. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:48.9654. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 1:49.3825. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:49.6976. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:49.9807. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:50.0308. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) 1:50.1239. Toni Elias (Honda) 1:50.20910. James Toseland (Yamaha) 1:50.34211. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:50.39112. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:50.39313. Yuki Takahashi (Honda) 1:50.40414. Sete Gibernau (Ducati) 1:50.53815. Alex De Angelis (Honda) 1:50.60116. Randy De Puniet (Honda) 1:50.66917. Mika Kallio (Ducati) 1:51.64318. Niccolo Canepa (Ducati) 1:51.929
Rossi Shows Early Speed in Japan
Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor
Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.