Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa fastest on Friday at the Sachsenring from Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden, while Valentino Rossi stole the show in seventh place on return for Fiat Yamaha.
There was great excitement at the commencement of the eni Motorrad Grand Prix Deutschland on Friday as the focus at the start of the opening practice session revolved around Valentino Rossi’s return to action after six weeks out with a broken leg. The Italian made his comeback on his Fiat Yamaha M1 and was seventh fastest, in an hour-long session topped by Dani Pedrosa.
Setting his time of 1:22.521 on his final lap, having led for the last minutes of the session, Pedrosa was 0.274s faster than Casey Stoner, who placed second on the timesheet as he vied for top spot throughout the session with some consistently fast lap times.
“It’s great because for the first time this season I’ve got the best time on Friday and this is a very positive step for us,” Pedrosa beamed. “We normally struggle initially, but today we did a very good job in first practice and I’m very happy for this.
“It’s also a good result because tomorrow it could rain and so it was very important to get the basic set-up fixed on the first day here. I hope we will have one more practice session in the dry tomorrow, but it looks likely that at least one session will be wet.”
Stoner was consistently quick in FP1, looking to continue that form as the weekend progresses.
“In general the bike felt pretty good for most of the session today but we need to make a few improvements,” the Aussie acknowledged. “As usual we seem to have one part of the bike working very well at the start and then when we try to improve in other areas we make the good part worse and struggle for a compromise.
“In general, like I say, we’re pretty happy with the bike – it’s working well but we have work to do if we’re going to get to where we want to be.”
Joining the pair in the top three and the final rider under the 1:23 marker was Stoner’s Ducati Team colleague Nicky Hayden, 0.462 seconds down on Pedrosa thanks to his late effort.
“It was really important to get as much information as we could today, to try all the tyres and a couple of different set-ups because it looks like there’s a good chance of rain tomorrow,” Hayden said. “We started out struggling quite a bit – right in the beginning it wasn’t too good but I switched bikes and immediately got a better feeling.
“There are a couple of parts on the track where I am quite fast but a few sections where I’m losing a lot and every tenth counts around here – I mean, a lot of tracks you look for tenths but around here literally half a tenth can make a big difference. But it’s a cool track, I like it, that fast corner out the back is a lot of fun. We’ll just try to keep rolling.”
Ben Spies took the best part of the session to feel his way around the track and survived a run-off at turn 10 a quarter of the way into the session, but towards the end he posted an impressive time of 1:23.189 to place fourth.
“I’m really happy to be so high up after the first session and I think I figured out this track pretty quickly,” Spies commented. “It is good to start the weekend in the top five and that gives us a platform to build on. It felt like being out on a dirt track bike and I see Nicky is right up there too. It’s a positive start and that’s all I can ask for.”
Another rookie in the shape of Marco Simoncelli completed the top five on his satellite Honda Gresini machine.
In sixth and 0.703s down on Pedrosa was MotoGP World Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo, timing in with a best effort of 1:23.224, just two-hundredths off Simoncelli.
“Today wasn’t a good session for me and I didn’t feel so good on the bike,” the Spaniard admitted. “This isn’t one of my favourite tracks and it’s very different to the ones where I’ve won lately, so I think I need to make some changes to the way I’m riding the bike. I was fast at the start but then we didn’t improve from the middle to the end and everyone else did. We have some work to do and our goal is to be competitive by Sunday.”
Meanwhile on the other side of the Fiat Yamaha garage, Rossi hobbled his way back onto his bike with the assistance of a single crutch and with hundreds of media men bustling to get the best shots of his first contact with his M1. The nine-time world champion completed 29 laps in total, and was only 0.02s off his team-mate’s best time.
“I am really happy today, especially because I am a lot more agile on the bike than I was in the tests,” The Doctor said. “I feel good and this track is helping me because a lot of it turns to the left. I am feeling quite confident on the bike and also my shoulder is good and not giving me problems.
“Now I have some pain in the leg and ankle but it’s not too bad, I was able to do some laps in a row and I was quite fast so things seem okay. Now we will have to wait until tomorrow morning to see how the leg is and whether it has swelled overnight or developed any problems.”
Randy de Puniet overcame a dramatic moment with the front end of his bike early on, controlling his LCR Honda RC212V admirably in the midst of a big wobble to go on and lap eighth fastest. Marco Melandri and Andrea Dovizioso completed the top ten.
The MotoGP riders will be back on track on Saturday morning at 9:55am local time for the second practice, ahead of the afternoon qualifying session.
Simone Corsi was the fastest rider in the first Moto2 practice at Sachsenring, setting a best time of 1:26.306 on his JiR Motobi machine. That placed the Italian 0.218s clear of Gabor Talmacsi (Fimmco Speed Up) who was second.
Talmasci had led with his fourth from last lap of the session, but six minutes before the end Corsi shot up from 16th place and into first with his effort. Alex Baldolini (Caretta Technology Race Dept) completed the top three at just under nine-hundredths behind Talmacsi.
Julián Simón (Mapfre Aspar) had a session which included a fall towards the end, but by then the Spaniard had set his fastest time to place fourth quickest. Championship leader Toni Elías (Gresini Racing) went down too, this time towards the start of the session, but returned to set the fifth fastest time of the hour just over half a second off Corsi’s pace.
Alex Debón (Aeroport de Castelló-Ajo) was sixth as he avoided falling when running off during the session, with the top ten completed by Sergio Gadea (Tenerife 40 Pons), Roberto Rolfo (Italtrans STR), Shoya Tomizawa (Technomag-CIP) and Andrea Iannone (Fimmco Speed Up). Thomas Lüthi (Interwetten Moriwaki Racing), currently second in the overall standings, was 15th.
Australian Damian Cudlin made his Moto2 debut with Pons to finish the session a credible 13th overall.
The 125cc World Championship leader, Marc Márquez’s dominance of the series continued without respite at Sachsenring as the 17 year-old set the fastest lap of the session by some distance with a 1:27.435. That made Márquez the only rider under 1:28 in the session, and placed him a substantial 0.833s clear at the top of the time sheet.
Next up was Tuenti Racing’s Pol Espargaró, who is just a single point behind Márquez in the standings, and the young Catalan rider had a few nervy moments during the session. After 18 minutes he controlled his Derbi machine well in a run-off at turn eight, and towards the end of the session avoided a collision with wildcard rider Marvin Fritz.
Nevertheless his intentions of challenging Márquez this weekend were made clear with a time of 1:28.268.
Completing an all-Derbi top three was Espargaró’s team-mate Efrén Vázquez, with German duo Jonas Folger (Team Ongetta) and Sandro Cortese (Avant Mitsubishi Ajo) clearly well motivated for their home event as they both timed within a tenth of the second of Vázquez. Tomoyoshi Koyama (Racing Team Germany), Esteve Rabat (Blusens-STX) and Bradley Smith (Bancaja Aspar) completed the top eight in the hour-long session.
A notable absence from the practice was Bancaja Aspar rider Nico Terol, who is currently third in the Championship. The Spaniard, who suffered a bruised lung and two fractured vertebra in a last-lap crash at Catalunya almost two weeks ago, was given the medical all-clear to ride this weekend but after an uncomfortable Thursday night decided to leave a final decision on whether he will ride until Saturday morning.