Dorna press release:
Valentino Rossi was quicker than Casey Stoner on Friday in Japan. That was the result that everyone was awaiting after the latter’s dominance in Qatar, but the Italian’s fightback doesn’t tell the whole story of the first free practice session for the Polini Grand Prix of Japan.
Reigning World Champion and 2008 racewinner Rossi left his final push to the last possible moment, cutting more than half a second off his previous best time in the session to edge out the current series leader. The Italian stopped the clock at 1’48.545 to bring an end to Stoner’s perfect record in practice, qualifying and warmup sessions in 2009.
Ducati Marlboro man Stoner threw himself into the challenge with an early 1’48.601 lap of the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, but elected to return to the garage instead of returning fire once Rossi had taken the advantage.
Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo had expressed his desire to record times closer to those of Stoner in the run-up to Japan and, like Rossi, his ultimate lap was also his most effective. The Spaniard was the final rider to go round in under 1’49.
Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi showed that Rizla Suzuki’s efforts to improve the GSV-R over the winter had been something of a success, both in the top six at a track that did not go well for the duo in 2008. They sandwiched satellite Yamaha rider Colin Edwards on the timesheet, whilst the top ten also included fastest Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso, Hayate Racing surprise Marco Melandri, 2007 podium finisher Toni Elías and Monster Tech3 Yamaha’s James Toseland.
Home rider Yuki Takahashi ran off track in the session, whilst fellow rookie Mika Kallio had a spectacular highside –from which he returned to action during the 45-minute run.
In need of World Championship points after missing the opening race of the season, Marco Simoncelli came out swinging in the first 250cc free practice session. The 2008 Motegi racewinner and reigning World Champion put in a series of isolated hot laps, culminating in a 1’53.093 time that gave him the early advantage in the quarter-litre class.
Simoncelli was over six-tenths of a second faster than rival Hiroshi Aoyama, who just missed out on the podium at round one and is determined to return to the rostrum for his home race. The Scot Racing rider was in turn just over a tenth faster than Álvaro Bautista, another rider keen to make amends for disappointment in the season opener.
Despite finishing the session fourth, Mattia Pasini’s late crash on Friday afternoon leaves his Team Toth mechanics with plenty of work to do ahead of Saturday practice and qualifying. Series leader Héctor Barberá returned to the scene of his 2008 season-ending crash with the fifth quickest time in the quarter-litre class.
The current leader in the 125cc standings, Andrea Iannone put the heat on his lower cylinder category rivals in the first session of the day. Ongetta Team I.S.P.A’s Italian rider opened up with the quickest time of the 125cc run, a 2’00.685 lap.
Qatar poleman Julián Simón was second fastest, less than two-tenths of a second slower than the man with whom he had the briefest of battles at the Losail race. 2008 racewinner Stefan Bradl came in third quickest, running off track on one of his final hot laps. Meanwhile, Esteve Rabat and Nico Terol increased the Spanish representation in the top five.