In perfect conditions at the Laguna Seca circuit on Friday afternoon, with Californian sunshine and comfortable temperatures of 24°C, the MotoGP riders got the eighth race weekend of the year underway. World Champion Valentino Rossi put down the fastest time late in FP1 for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.
The current MotoGP ‘big three’ were on top again as the action commenced, Rossi followed on the timesheet by his Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo and Ducati’s Casey Stoner.
Rossi’s 1’21.981s lap around the shortest track on the MotoGP calendar, on the last of his 32 laps, was enough to put him 0.112s ahead of the young pretender to his crown Lorenzo.
A first lap crasher in the 2008 race on his Laguna Seca debut, Lorenzo will aim to put the memories of last year’s contest behind him and already looks comfortable around the picturesque American track.
Stoner was himself just 0.189s down on Rossi’s pace as he tested his condition following the severe exhaustion he has experienced in recent weeks. The 2007 Laguna Seca race-winning Australian is out for revenge over Rossi this weekend following their epic 2008 battle.
In fourth place was Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa. The Spanish rider is still fighting back to 100% fitness this weekend, although he is already in far better shape than last year when he went home after the Friday practices -due to injuries sustained at Sachsenring in the previous round.
There was a good start to the weekend for San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Toni Elías who immediately benefitted from the introduction of a new chassis on the Honda RC212V to lap fifth quickest.
Italian pair Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Marco Melandri (Hayate Racing) were sixth and seventh, respectively, 0.899s and 1.159s down on the pace.
Rizla Suzuki’s Chris Vermeulen crashed at the beginning of the session but soon got back out on track to complete 27 laps in total and still managed to go round eighth fastest.
Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) and Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) rounded off the top ten, whilst Edwards’ compatriot Nicky Hayden made a sluggish start to his American Ducati debut in 14th place.