Simoncelli Fast in Home Grand Prix at Mugello

Henny Ray Abrams | July 1, 2011

MUGELLO, ITALY, JULY 1 – The home country Hondas were well represented on the first day of practice for the Italian Grand Prix, with San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Marco Simoncelli the fastest rider and Repsol Honda’s Andrea Dovizioso third fastest. In between the Italians came Repsol Honda’s World Championship leader Casey Stoner. But the rider whom everyone was watching had a miserable day, with Ducati Marlboro’s Valentino Rossi only able to muster the 13th fastest time.Simoncelli arrived in Mugello hoping for some home country love while trying to end a streak of race futility. The tall, bushy-haired Italian has been blazingly fast in practice and qualifying, but consistently inept in the races. Last weekend he crashed on a cold tire on the opening lap of the Dutch TT in the first left hand corner, taking down Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo. Simoncelli was apologetic, but it didn’t silence his critics, who see a pattern that hasn’t changed all season.”Super Sic” set the today’s fast time of 1:48.987 in the morning session, held on a warm, dry track. He didn’t bother going out in the afternoon, when the track was mostly wet from a very light rain, though it dried at the end of the hour. Most of the riders did a few laps, but only Dovizioso was able to put in a competitive time in the 1:49s. The rest were all above the 1:51 mark.Simoncelli’s fast lap also reflected the recently paving of the majestic circuit north of Florence. Simoncelli’s time was faster than the 1:49.531 lap turned in during last year’s race by Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. But it remains well off the fastest ever lap of 1:48.130 run by Valentino Rossi on qualifying tires in 2008.Stoner was in and out of the session early on and only completed a total of 10 full laps. But his final run was all in the low 1:49s, except for one lap that was higher. His best lap came early, a 1:49.027.Dovizioso, who lives in Forli, north of the circuit, completed 16 full laps with his best coming on his last lap of 1:49.088. The four-lap run that ended the session was the only one in which Dovi strung together three laps in the 1:49s.Yamaha’s factory riders were next, with Lorenzo finishing about a tenth of a second faster than teammate Ben Spies, the Dutch TT winner.Another Yamaha was sixth, the Monster Energy Tech 3 machine of Colin Edwards, who was about half a second off the pace of his fellow Texan Spies.Then came Pedrosa, a creditable seventh in his return to racing after two surgeries on his right collarbone. Pedrosa started slowly, but gained speed and finished his final four-lap run with his best lap of 1:50.104. This was his first time on the RC212V since being knocked down by Simoncelli in the French Grand Prix at Le Mans on May 15.Behind Pedrosa came the top running Ducati of Nicky Hayden. The Ducati Marlboro rider is on the Desmosedici GP11, while teammate Valentino Rossi campaigns the GP11.1, essentially a GP12 with reduced engine capacity.Rossi had a disappointing first day for the home crowd. His first run ended with his GP11.1 dying on the track-it was thought to be an electrical issue-and his second bike only netted him the 13th fastest time. In all, Rossi completely only six laps at speed. His best lap came at the end of his first four-lap run.

MotoGP Practice:

1. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:48.987

2. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:49.027

3. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:49.088

4. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:49.251

5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:49.364

6. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:49.801

7. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:50.104

8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:50.203

9. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1:50.629

10. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:50.658

11. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:50.683

12. Randy de Puniet (Ducati) 1:50.729

13. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:50.780

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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.