Dani Pedrosa underlined his growing confidence in wet weather conditions to set the fastest time in this afternoon’s rain-soaked second free MotoGP practice session at Donington Park.
Pedrosa has previously had a nightmare adapting to wet weather conditions, but he produced a brilliant late charge this afternoon to post a best lap of 1.43.870 in the dying moments of a rain-hit session.
His performance showed his ability to ride in the wet has drastically improved, building on his recent breakthrough wet display when he claimed fourth place in last month’s French MotoGP in Le Mans.
Dani Pedrosa’s best, which followed his fifth position from this morning’s opening session, beat Repsol Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden into second place.
The American briefly held top spot when he clocked a 1.44.344 lap on his last lap.
But Dani Pedrosa’s late surge saw him deny the reigning world champion by 0.474s as the Spaniard goes in search of his second successive premier class victory at Donington Park.
Pedrosa’s best time was still only good enough to secure the third best time overall on the opening day of the British MotoGP.
Casey Stoner’s (Ducati) time of 1.43.749 set this morning was the fastest overall time
Dani Pedrosa and Nicky Hayden’s burst proved a welcome boost for both Honda and Michelin.
Honda is still to claim a victory in the new 800cc era, while Michelin has so far struggled to match the pace of Japanese rivals Bridgestone in the rain.
That trend looked certain to continue for large parts of this afternoon’s session, with Aussie trio Chris Vermeulen, Anthony West and MotoGP world championship leader Casey Stoner figuring prominently at the top of the timesheets.
Vermeulen finished third fastest with a best time of 1.44.371 that came on his last lap of a 23-lap stint.
That left him 0.501s slower than Pedrosa but Vermeulen again lived up to his rain wizard tag.
Italian Valentino Rossi recently dubbed the factory Suzuki rider rain wizard after his maiden MotoGP success in a rain-lashed French GP in Le Mans.
A time of 1.44.867 set with 26 minutes of the session still remaining looked good enough to secure top spot until a late flurry of action.
Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen, who crashed on the exit of Goddards corner this morning, first made his move with 22 minutes elapsed when he logged a 1.46.136 that got him to within 0.591s of team-mate John Hopkins.
Fourth place this afternoon went to Texan Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha), who ended the session with a best of 1.44.445.
That had briefly put him top after he’d gone second earlier in proceedings with a lap of 1.45.062 that at the time was only 0.195s slower than Chris Vermeulen.
In the closing stages he clocked a 1.44.789 to move 0.078s clear of Chris Vermeulen before eventually being relegated to fourth.
Fifth quickest was the impressive Anthony West (Kawasaki).
Though regarded as something of a wet weather specialist, today was Anthony West’s first competitive outing on board Kawasaki’s factory ZX-RR.
He needed only 11 minutes to show his wet prowess when a lap of 1.48.846 fired him to the top of the timesheets, 0.129s ahead of John Hopkins (Suzuki).
He was knocked off top spot for a while by Casey Stoner but reclaimed the fastest time with 16 minutes gone when he posted a 1.46.253 to edge 0.140s ahead of Stoner.
He then swopped placed with John Hopkins a couple of times – the American being the first rider to log a sub-1.46 lap with a 1.45.545 that left him 0.454s clear of Anthony West.
John Hopkins eventually finished seventh fastest after a late off-track excursion at Coppice, the same corner that Rossi crashed unhurt at this morning.
Casey Stoner was sixth fastest this afternoon but quickest on overall times.
He went to the top of the timesheets with a 1.47.224 on only his third lap moving him 0.326s clear of Anthony West.
He only held top spot on one more occasion during the session.
The closest he got to regaining top spot came with 12 minutes to go when he posted a 1.44.916 that was only 0.049s slower than Chris Vermeulen’s best at that point.
Despite the treacherous conditions the session was relatively incident free, though Alex Barros and Randy de Puniet also joined John Hopkins in running off at the Coppice double apex right-hander.
French rider Sylvain Guintoli was the only crasher when he lost the front of his Tech 3 Yamaha YZR-M1 under heavy braking going into the Foggy Esses.
He escaped unhurt.
1. Pedrosa Honda 1.43.870
2. Hayden Honda 1.44.344
3. Vermeulen Suzuki 1.44.371
4. Edwards Yamaha 1.44.445
5. West Kawasaki 1.44.498
6. Stoner Ducati 1.44.513
7. Hopkins Suzuki 1.44.716
8. De Puniet Kawasaki 1.45.158
9. Melandri Honda 1.45.684
10. Rossi Yamaha 1.45.718
11. Barros Ducati 1.46.100
12. Capirossi Ducati 1.46.811
13. Hoffman Ducati 1.46.838
14. Nakano Honda 1.46.926
15. Elias Honda 1.47.178
16. Checa Honda 1.47.754
17. Roberts KR212V 1.48.464
18. Tamada Yamaha 1.53.261
19. Guintoli Yamaha 1.54.026