Italian MotoGP: John Hopkins fastest in rain-hit first practice

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John Hopkins cast aside his frustrations at a lack of progress with Kawasaki’s factory ZX-RR to top the timesheets in this morning’s opening free practice session in Italy.

Under threatening grey skies, Hopkins posted a best time of 1:54.053 to deny Loris Capirossi first blood on home soil in Mugello.

Heavy early morning rain had subsided by the start of the first session, but track conditions were still far from perfect with most of the circuit still damp in several sections.

Over three-quarters of the session had been completed before anybody managed to duck under the two-minute barrier, with reigning world champion Casey Stoner logging a 1.58.724 with 12 minutes remaining.

As the track dried quickly, times plummeted in the closing stages, with Hopkins taking advantage as his best of 1.54.053 beat factory Suzuki rider Capirossi by 0.467secs.

This morning’s rain handed Kawasaki and Anthony West some welcome respite from what has been a disappointing campaign so far.

Struggling Aussie West, who seems certain to lose his ride at the end of the season, finished third fastest. As usual, he excelled in the tricky conditions and a best lap of 1:55.021 was 0.968secs adrift of team-mate Hopkins.

On a morning of surprises, Gresini Honda rider Alex de Angelis was fourth quickest and team-mate Shinya Nakano fifth as big names like Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo risked less on the damp track.

Pedrosa was highest place of the title contenders as he finished eighth fastest with a best lap of 1:55.805, which was 1.7secs outside of Hopkins’ benchmark.

Stoner was ninth as he opted to only complete eight laps and having set a 1:58.618 with ten minutes remaining, he didn’t go back out on track for the closing stages.

Home hero and factory Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi was two places further back in 10th as he made his Bridgestone debut on home soil. Rossi clocked a best lap of 1:58.672.

Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo was 14th, one place behind British rider James Toseland on the Tech 3 Yamaha.

Japanese veteran Tadayuki Okada rode Honda’s new pneumatic valve motor for the first time in competition this morning and posted a best lap of 2:02.810. He was 17th quickest.

Italian MotoGP free practice one results:

1 John HOPKINS USA Kawasaki Racing Team KAWASAKI 1’54.053
2 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP SUZUKI 1’54.520
3 Anthony WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team KAWASAKI 1’55.021
4 Alex DE ANGELIS RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini HONDA 1’55.141
5 Shinya NAKANO JPN San Carlo Honda Gresini HONDA 1’55.528
6 Andrea DOVIZIOSO ITA JiR Team Scot MotoGP HONDA 1’55.718
7 Chris VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP SUZUKI 1’55.774
8 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1’55.805
9 Casey STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team DUCATI 1’58.618
10 Valentino ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team YAMAHA 1’58.672
11 Randy DE PUNIET FRA LCR Honda MotoGP HONDA 1’59.240
12 Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1’59.436
13 James TOSELAND GBR Tech 3 Yamaha YAMAHA 1’59.899
14 Jorge LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha Team YAMAHA 2’00.004
15 Marco MELANDRI ITA Ducati Marlboro Team DUCATI 2’00.162
16 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA Alice Team DUCATI 2’01.718
17 Tadayuki OKADA JPN Repsol Honda Team HONDA 2’02.810
18 Toni ELIAS SPA Alice Team DUCATI 2’03.305
19 Colin EDWARDS USA Tech 3 Yamaha YAMAHA 2’03.774

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt