Speedy Playboy

Henny Ray Abrams | June 25, 2009

LCR Honda’s Randy De Puniet stunned the MotoGP field by topping Thursday’s first practice for Saturday’s Dutch TT on the Circuit van Drenthe in northern Holland.The Playboy-backed Frenchman was chasing Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen late in the session when he flashed across the line with a lap of 1:37.842 mins. The time was a narrow .005 of a second better than the previous mark set earlier in the hour by Fiat Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi.There were 1:18 minutes remaining after De Puniet’s flyer, which gave the field plenty of time to take him down. A number of riders were under his mark at the first and second splits, but none could maintain their momentum to the end.It was the first time this season, and the first time in memory, that a non-factory bike had topped a session of any sort. And it came during an extraordinarily competitive hour. The top 11 bikes were covered by .653 of a second. Then came a gap of .4 of a second before 12th fastest Nicky Hayden on the second Ducati Marlboro GP09. Though Hayden was 12th, he was encouragingly only 1.086 seconds from the top.Less than half a minute after time had expired, teammate Casey Stoner had slotted the first GP09 into third at a gap of .030 of a second to Rossi.Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo was fourth, .184 of a second off Stoner’s time and only .031 up on the first factory Honda rider, Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso. Dani Pedrosa was a 10th slower than Dovi.Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Colin Edwards dropped to seventh after spending much of the hour in the top spot. But the Texan didn’t improve in the final minutes and could only watch his name slide down the order.Vermeulen was ninth in front of Edwards’ teammate James Toseland. Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi finished 10th.

Thursday Practice:

1. Randy De Puniet (Honda) 1:37.842

2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:37.847

3. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:37.877

4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:38.061

5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:38.092

6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:38.194

7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:38.205

8. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 1:38.350

9. James Toseland (Yamaha) 1:38.379

10. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:38.429

11. Alex De Angelis (Honda) 1:38.495

12. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:38.928

13. Mika Kallio (Ducati) 1:39.464

14. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) 1:39.597

15. Toni Elias (Honda) 1:39.642

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.