US MotoGP: Dani Pedrosa quickest on new Honda

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Dani Pedrosa took full advantage of an all-new factory Honda RC213V machine at Laguna Seca today to head the timesheets at the end of the opening day of practice in California.

The Spaniard had set the best pace in this morning’s session with a 1.21.424 that edged out compatriot Jorge Lorenzo by just 0.074s.

The Repsol Honda rider though upped his pace in gloriously sunny conditions this afternoon and a lap of 1.21.088 put him 0.334s clear of Lorenzo’s factory Yamaha YZR-M1.

Pedrosa set his best time on the new RC213V that he only completed two laps on during a recent test session in Mugello earlier this month.

But so impressed was he with a new engine that offered smoother acceleration performance and a new chassis that HRC flew four bikes for Pedrosa to America.

Pedrosa opted to run one new version and one of the RC213V machines he used in the opening nine races today to carry out back-to-back analysis. But he said he hadn’t made his mind up which spec RC213V he will race in Sunday’s 32-lap clash.

Lorenzo’s best time of 1.21.422 secured him second spot ahead of reigning world champion Casey Stoner.

Lorenzo clocked a best time of 1.21.422 that put him only 0.035s ahead of Stoner.

Aussie Stoner didn’t opt to use the complete new RC213V but he is using the new V4 motor made available by Honda.

Ben Spies, who stunned the paddock earlier this week by announcing he will leave Yamaha at the end of 2012, finished fourth in both sessions. The Texan’s best time of 1.21.708 left him 0.620s off Pedrosa’s pace.

Andrea Dovizioso was fifth ahead of Cal Crutchlow. Crutchlow was lying in sixth position having set a best time of 1.22.504 when he tumbled out with 15 minutes left on the clock in the second 45-miniute session.

Crutchlow had managed to shave over 0.1s off his best time from the morning practice session but he fell heavily after losing the front-end of his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 at Turn 10.

His YZR-M1 was badly damaged but Crutchlow was able to finish the session and he lowered his lap time to a 1.22.258 to remain in sixth.

Nicky Hayden could only celebrate his new one-year Ducati contract that was announced earlier today with a lowly seventh and he was 1.346s off the fastest pace.

Valentino Rossi had a difficult start to the US Grand Prix weekend. Seventh in cool and cloudy conditions this morning but a massive 1.792s off the pace, Rossi crashed out at Turn 3 with just over 10 minutes remaining this afternoon while trying to improve on a best time of 1.22.722.

The Italian lost the front-end of his factory Ducati GP12 and while he was able to walkaway the session was red flagged shortly after as his crashed Desmosedici damaged a trackside air fence.

Spaniard Alvaro Bautista, who also crashed in the same place as Rossi earlier in the session, rounded out the top 10.

British rider James Ellison finished 19th on the combined timesheets after posting a best time of 1.25.166 on the Paul Bird Motorsport CRT machine.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt