Spaniard Dani Pedrosa cast aside Honda’s disappointing start to the 2007 MotoGP season with a dominant performance in this morning’s opening free practice session for the Italian GP.
Under threatening grey skies at the Mugello circuit, the Repsol Honda rider clocked a best time of 1.50.743 to edge out home favourite Valentino Rossi by 0.158s.
Pedrosa posted his best time on his 12th lap and at that stage of the 60-minute session he was a massive 0.681s ahead of current MotoGP world championship series leader Casey Stoner.
Rossi’s late surge couldn’t knock Pedrosa off the top of the leaderboard as the Fiat Yamaha rider clocked a best of 1.50.901 on the 23rd of 25 laps he completed.
In-form Suzuki rider John Hopkins was third fastest with a best of 1.51.022 that left him just 0.279s adrift of Pedrosa, who has yet to register a win in the 800cc era on Honda’s struggling RC212V.
Ducati rider Stoner was fourth fastest but he was a massive 0.613s behind former 250 GP rival Pedrosa.
The Australian needed only four laps to go to the top of the timesheets when he clocked a 1.52.105 early on. He was back on top with a 1.51.424 on his ninth lap after Rossi had briefly gone to the top of the standings with a 1.51.451.
Rossi was a massive 6.2mph slower on the long start/finish straight compared to Stoner’s Ducati but still beat his main title rival by 0.5s as he utilised the sweet handling characteristics of his factory YZR-M1 at the technical Mugello track.
Fearful that his Yamaha would be blown away by the impressive top speed of Ducati’s new GP7, Rossi said it was critical that he made the most of Yamaha’s strong points.
Stoner’s best top speed this morning was 200.82mph, while Rossi’s M1 burst through the speed traps at 194.67mph.
Rossi told MCN: “A lot depends on the acceleration between the corners. Here the corners are faster and longer so maybe the distance in acceleration is less. We hope.
“We have some good points like in braking but the precision and agility of the Yamaha is good. So we have to try and work on that part to go a bit faster and recover the disadvantage on the straight.”
Reigning world champion Nicky Hayden was eighth quickest this morning, one place ahead of Stoner’s Ducati team-mate Loris Capirossi.
The Italian is using a tailor-made GP7 for the first time in Mugello to try and get him closer to the form shown so far by Stoner, with the 21-year-old leading Rossi by 21-points going into the sixth race.
He was just over a second adrift of Pedrosa though with a best of 1.51.803.
French GP winner Chris Vermeulen was only 13th fastest while Colin Edwards was down in only 16th, a massive 1.8s off the fastest pace.
Friday free practice results:
1 Dani PEDROSA SPA HONDA 1'50.743
2 Valentino ROSSI ITA YAMAHA 1'50.901
3 John HOPKINS USA SUZUKI 1'51.022
4 Casey STONER AUS DUCATI 1'51.356
5 Carlos CHECA SPA HONDA 1'51.414
6 Toni ELIAS SPA HONDA 1'51.553
7 Alex BARROS BRA DUCATI 1'51.621
8 Nicky HAYDEN USA HONDA 1'51.720
9 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA DUCATI 1'51.803
10 Makoto TAMADA JPN YAMAHA 1'51.823
11 Alex HOFMANN GER DUCATI 1'51.982
12 Marco MELANDRI ITA HONDA 1'52.057
13 Chris VERMEULEN AUS SUZUKI 1'52.125
14 Shinya NAKANO JPN HONDA 1'52.361
15 Randy DE PUNIET FRA KAWASAKI 1'52.396
16 Colin EDWARDS USA YAMAHA 1'52.630
17 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA YAMAHA 1'52.726
18 Olivier JACQUE FRA KAWASAKI 1'53.411
19 Kenny ROBERTS JR USA KR212V 1'53.541
20 Kurtis ROBERTS USA KR212V 1'55.286