Jorge Lorenzo’s bid for a second successive victory in the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday got off to a flying start at a hot and sunny Mugello today.
The Spaniard dominated the opening practice session this morning with a 1.48.131 putting him a massive 0.518s clear of Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner.
The factory Yamaha rider, who goes into Sunday’s race with a 14-point lead over closest title rival Dani Pedrosa, was marginally faster in hotter conditions this afternoon.
He improved to a 1.48.076 to finish just 0.031s ahead of Pedrosa, who hauled himself firmly into the title hunt with a first win of 2012 in Germany just five days ago.
Lorenzo dominated both sessions and the only hiccup on an otherwise brilliant day was a slow speed tumble in the gravel at the first corner when he ran off track this afternoon.
Pedrosa was third quickest this morning and his best lap of 1.48.107 moved him up one place this afternoon.
Ducati’s Nicky Hayden enjoyed a positive start to the Bologna factory’s all-important home round to set the third quickest time. His 1.48.157 was only 0.081s behind Lorenzo and he finished 0.054s ahead of Spaniard Hector Barbera.
Barbera set a best time of 1.48.254 but the session was red flagged with 27 minutes left on the clock when Pramac Ducati rider crashed at the Casanova right-hander.
His GP12 machine rolled several times in the gravel and debris thrown on the track meant the session was momentarily halted.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Andrea Dovizioso was fifth quickest with reigning world champion Casey Stoner slipping back from second this morning to sixth.
The Aussie clocked a best time of 1.48.527 but was 0.451s behind Lorenzo.
Ben Spies was seventh and just 0.110s clear of British rider Cal Crutchlow.
Crutchlow was fifth this morning despite a mechanical failure with one of his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machines and a lap of a 1.48.650 left him eighth.
Home crowd favourite Valentino Rossi also dropped down the rankings in the second session.
The factory Ducati rider was seventh in the morning session and he improved by less than 0.1s this afternoon to drop back to ninth. The Italian’s best lap of 1.49.017 was 0.941s behind Lorenzo.
It wasn’t a great start to an emotional weekend for the San Carlo Gresini Honda squad. Mugello marks the first race in Italy since star rider Marco Simoncelli lost his life in an accident during last October’s Sepang race in Malaysia.
The Italian team has reverted back to its red and white livery and will remain with its traditional paint scheme for the remainder of the season having raced in black colours as a mark of respect to Simoncelli in the opening eight races.
But it was a difficult start for Alvaro Bautista who was 11th this morning after falling off in the gravel when he ran off at the first corner.
He crashed the first turn again this afternoon but this time lost the front after a small mistake braking hard from over 200mph on the long Mugello home straight. The Spaniard finished 11th and was 1.132s off the best pace.
British rider James Ellison was 18th quickest on the Paul Bird Motorsport ART machine. The 31-year-old clocked a best time of 1.51.966. That was almost 1.5s faster than his best pace in the first session and he was 3.8s behind Lorenzo.