Valentino Rossi’s love affair with the Catalunya track near Barcelona continued today when then Italian topped the practice leaderboard to deny home heroes Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa and Marc Marquez.
The nine-times world champion has an incredible record at Catalunya with 10 MotoGP podiums, including six wins, and the 34-year-old shone in scorching hot conditions today.
A best lap of 1.42.297 in a sun-drenched FP2 saw Rossi deny factory Yamaha teammate and home crowd favourite Jorge Lorenzo by just 0.049s.
Championship leader Dani Pedrosa was only a further 0.099s back on the combined leaderboard in third after the Spaniard was one of only three riders not to improve his pace in the second session.
One of the trio was British rider Cal Crutchlow, who is chasing an incredible third successive podium in Sunday’s 25-lap encounter.
A lap of 1.412.492 put the 27-year-old in third this morning but he could only log a best of 1.42.776 in FP2.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider though didn’t use a soft tyre in gruelling 28-degree heat, the former World Supersport champion instead preferring to assess endurance with the harder Bridgestone option with conditions expected to be scorching hot all weekend.
Alvaro Bautista, who had a small crash at the first corner this morning, and Repsol Honda rider Marc Marquez completed the top six.
Marquez was just over 0.5s behind Rossi’s pace while Stefan Bradl was a lowly ninth on the LCR Honda after he walked away unhurt from an early spill at Turn 10 in FP2.
Bradley Smith had to endure another tough and painful day on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine.
Two massive crashes at the last round in Mugello had left him nursing left hand and wrist injuries but he had started today in positive fashion by setting the 12th best time in FP1.
He had already lapped marginally faster this afternoon with a 1.44.247 when he suffered a heavy crash at Turn 3.
The 22-year-old was trying to save a front-end slide when his rear tyre suddenly gripped and high-sided him.
Smith was seen limping heavily out of the gravel but fortunately he has not suffered any fresh injuries and he finished 14th.
Michael Laverty enjoyed a productive start to his sixth race in MotoGP by setting the 19th fastest time on the British-built PBM frame.
Laverty clocked a best of 1.45.337 to go almost 1.5s faster than he did in FP1.