Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo narrowly edged Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden for fast time honors in Friday's wet practice session for Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix at Estoril.The session began on a wet track in dreary conditions, though the conditions were much better than in the morning, when the the weather was so bad that only two riders even bothered to venture out for an exploratory lap. The afternoon session began with a completely wet surface before the sun came out for the second half. That helped to dry the 2.6-mile track, which sent lap times lower.Winner here the last two years, Lorenzo was one of three riders to dominate the 45-minute practice; Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner and LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet were the other two, though Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi also spent time on top.Lorenzo was fast throughout and set the fastest time with just under three minutes remaining, taking the spot from Stoner. Stoner had gone to the top with a series of four successively faster laps that earned him the quick time with just over 14 minutes to run.Lorenzo had begun his run with about 4:30 mins. to go, moving first to third then into the lead with just under three minutes remaining. Then he improved his time on the next lap, finishing the session with a benchmark 1:48.522 mins."I love this track," Lorenzo said. "I have won here both times in MotoGP so I am very happy to be here. Unfortunately the weather was terrible this morning and there was no point in riding, then this afternoon it was still very difficult, with a lot of water on the track and you had to be very careful. I felt good despite the conditions and step-by-step we improved so that at the end, when it was slightly drier, I was able to set a good time and we are on top. Tomorrow we will have two longer sessions so we will be able to recover some of the lost time, let's hope for no more rain!"Hayden also improved towards the end of the session. He moved to fifth at the 7:35 mark, then to fourth two laps later. On his next lap he improved his time in fourth and on his final lap, with about 25 secs. to go, moved to second at a gap of .135 secs. to Lorenzo, dropping Rossi to third. Hayden was on a flyer on his final lap-he was the fastest rider of the session in the first two splits-but slowed at the end. Still, he held second."This morning there was too much water on track to be able to ride, it was like a river, so we had to wait until the afternoon to check a few things," Hayden said. "This track doesn't have a lot of grip, especially on the rear. It's not a very abrasive surface but I had a really good feeling on the front - we just need to make some improvements on the rear. We know the Ducati works well in the rain because the engine management system is good and that gives us a lot of control. Lately I've been quite fast in wet conditions but it takes me too long to get there. If it's a wet race on Sunday and I'm going to be competitive then we need to be fast from the start so that's an area we need to work on if it rains again tomorrow."Rossi had moved into second near the end of the session before being dropped to third by Hayden. He also had a fast final lap, but not fast enough to dislodge Hayden."This afternoon was a normal wet practice and I'm happy about my performance. I am close to the top, was fast from the beginning of session and had a good feeling with bike," Rossi said. "Unfortunately we were losing a little bit in some sections of the track, especially the last one because the bike was moving a little too much. We will try for tomorrow to improve the settings, it's important that we made a good start this afternoon as this morning's session was cancelled and it looks like the weather may not be very good over the weekend, so we will not have a lot of time to set up the bike!"Stoner was one of the few riders not to improve greatly at the end. He'd gone to the top around the 31 minute mark, improving on the next lap to solidify his position. The Australian, who's won three of the past four races, was back out at the end, but unable to improve above fourth."We feel we could and should have been faster today, but we struggled for some reason with edge grip," Stoner said. "When I picked up the bike the traction was good but on the edge it wasn't. We also had some problems with the front brakes and I was having to adjust in every corner. Said that, we're quite happy. I felt confident in these conditions and it looks like we're going to have more of the same over the remainder of the weekend. We have work to do but for the moment I feel comfortable."On his first visit to the circuit, Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Ben Spies was fifth fastest. Teammate Colin Edwards crashed near the 31 minute mark while in eighth. He'd finish with the 12th best time."Today didn't start off well with the heavy rain this morning and it just wasn't worth going out and taking any risks," Spies said. "This afternoon was much better but it was still full wet conditions. It makes it really hard having to learn a new track when the conditions are wet. You just don't know what the grip is like or where the strong points of the track are and for the first part of the session it was a bit like riding blindfolded. I tried to follow a few people and I got a good feeling pretty quickly though and to be top five on my first day in those conditions is something I'm really happy about. There were a few tricky spots out on the track today and that made it difficult without me fully understanding the limits. A few guys were caught out but I didn't really have any moments and I'm looking forward to a positive weekend after a strong start.""The session started really good," Edwards said. "I felt confident on the bike immediately and was right at the front for a while. This track is kind of funny because it looks really slick but there is actually a lot of grip and obviously Yamaha has got a really good rain setting because Jorge, Valentino and Ben are all in the top five. I'm sure I could have been up there too, but I made a small mistake before the chicane. I drifted a little bit wide and all of a sudden the rear stepped out. It came back and I saved it but looked up and saw the wall on the other side of the gravel trap, so I just threw myself off the bike. I banged my left hip but I'm going to be fine for tomorrow."Hondas filled the next four spots, with three satellite machines in front of the first factory bike. San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Melandri was sixth fastest in his penultimate ride in MotoGP. The Italian will move to Yamaha World Superbike in 2011. De Puniet went to the top around the 15 minute mark, going back and forth with Rossi before Stoner put both of them behind about 16 minutes later. De Puniet is rumored to be moving to the Pramac Racing Ducati team. The Frenchman ended up seventh and 1.24 secs. up on San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli. Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso recovered from a mid-session crash to finish ninth. Dovi crashed when his front wheel touched the painted white line on the outside of turn seven. Teammate Dani Pedrosa, four weeks removed from breaking his left collarbone in Japan, was 13th fastest.Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi, who's struggled with a variety of injuries since the San Marino Grand Prix at Misano, was tenth fastest.Friday Practice Results:

1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:48.522

2. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:48.657

3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:48.883

4. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:49.061

5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:49.721

6. Marco Melandri (Honda) 1:49.784

7. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 1:50.043

8. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:51.283

9. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:52.294

10. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:52.575

11. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:53.131

12. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:53.510

13. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:53.592

MotoGP Headlines

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.

Comments