MotoGP world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo gave Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi plenty to think about after the Spaniard topped the timesheets in opening practice in Mugello today.
A best lap of 1.49.870 from the double world 250 champion saw him edge out home favourite Rossi by 0.195s at a hot and sunny Mugello.
Rossi is chasing an incredible eighth successive victory in Mugello but a best lap of 1.50.065 wasn’t good enough to overhaul impressive team-mate Lorenzo.
Lorenzo, who goes into Sunday’s 23-lap race with a slender one-point lead over title rivals Rossi and Ducati’s Casey Stoner, said: “Today was a very good day and of course it is nice to beat Valentino. But on Friday this means nothing. It doesn’t mean anything if I do the same tomorrow. It’s all about what happens in the race in Sunday, but I feel really confident and feel like I am riding the bike very well.
"Each time we come to a new track we don’t know exactly what to expect because we’re still learning the new Bridgestone tyres but at the moment we seem to be fast each time and I feel very comfortable in this period; this is positive.
"It’s very hot here, even hotter than in Spain but I am okay with that because we’ve had too much rain and we all need some sunshine! I hope it will continue like this for the weekend because it’s better for everyone.”
Rossi was happy with his start despite finishing behind Lorenzo, who has won the Japanese and French GP races to lead the series going into round five.
The 30-year-old, who has admitted feeling under severe pressure to deliver another victory in front of his passionate army of yellow clad supporters, said: “We did quite well today and it looks like we’re in good shape. It is only Friday so there’s a long way to go yet, but it’s looking like it could be a great battle on the track because the first few riders are very close.
"We have a few small things to work on still with the setting because I can’t ride exactly how I want to yet, but we already have a good rhythm and we have important data to help us improve further. This is a great track for me and it doesn’t matter if Mugello comes after a bad race or a good one, it’s something apart from the ‘normal’ championship and I always feel great motivation.”
Stoner was third quickest on his Ducati GP9, the Aussie content with his best time of 1.50.144 that left him just 0.079s behind Rossi and 0.274s adrift of Lorenzo’s impressive pace.
The 23-year-old reverted back to Ducati’s standard aluminium swingarm today having opted against running the carbon fibre version he’s used in the opening four races of 2009.
Stoner, who hasn’t won since the opening round in Qatar, said: “The idea behind going back to the aluminium swingarm is just in order to see where we can improve more with the carbon version. The carbon swingarm is better in a lot of ways but there is one area we’re struggling to find grip with in the turns. So we’re using the aluminium one to find out where it is better and why, and then hopefully transfer that across.
"I don’t mind riding with one of each because we can do the same lap times and use the same set-up so it’s not a problem. The only way it affected us today was that we had to make a lot of short runs and do a lot of testing but we’re happy with the way things went.
"Today was a case of spending a time learning more about our bike rather than setting it up to race, which we’ll focus on tomorrow. Considering how close we are to the top, I think we can be quite confident."