“Compared to the past two races, this is paradise!”
This was an ebullient Valentino Rossi speaking after the reigning MotoGP world champion had set fastest lap in the opening practice session at Jerez on his Fiat Yamaha.
Rossi was referring more to the blissful weather at the Andalucian circuit – 23C today, 25C forecast for race day – rather than the speed of his M1.
The first two rounds of MotoGP have been devastated by rain, leading to inconsistent performances and many questions about riders’.
So this third round on the 2.75-mile Jerez track could be called the Race of Truth. Everyone will get the same amount of dry practice and qualifying time. Excuses will not be accepted on Sunday night.
Can points leader Jorge Lorenzo – still only 21, sustain championship thrust? Can Rossi get back to winning? Can Dani Pedrosa shrug off winter injuries and attack with the Repsol Honda? Can Casey Stoner prove that he can be MotoGP champion again on the Marlboro Ducati?
Rossi aims to score his first win of the season at Jerez, on a circuit where he has topped the podium five times before, and is delighted with the setting changes made to his M1 after his defeat by team-mate Lorenzo last weekend in Japan.
“In Motegi we made a mistake,” he admitted. “But now I am confident with the bike. We were fast today because our modifications worked well, and I could push from the beginning.”
Rossi was the only rider to break the 1.40 barrier today, lapping in 1m 39.647s. Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) was nearest to him, just 0.364s behind.