Fresh from the news of a renewed deal with HRC for the next two seasons and brimming with confidence after back-to-back wins in the two previous rounds, Dani Pedrosa was the quickest rider in the first day of practice at the Gran Premio A-Style de Aragón on Friday.
Riding at the new track for the first time the Repsol Honda rider set a best time of 1:50.506 in the reinstated morning first free practice, before the rain arrived for the afternoon session to prevent his rivals from getting close to his mark.
“In general this has been a good first day of practice for us at a brand new circuit for MotoGP,” Pedrosa said. “This morning we started well and got into a rhythm quickly, which was important because it makes a big difference going from the one hour practice sessions we’re familiar with to 45 minutes.
“The track is quite technical; it has some difficult turns and you really have to find a good line and also to set up the gearbox properly to be able to make a good lap time. The grip from the track surface feels good and the Bridgestone tyres are also working well so far. I hope we can continue in this positive way tomorrow.”
Pedrosa finished 0.411s ahead of Ducati’s Nicky Hayden, with championship leader Jorge Lorenzo third fastest on his Fiat Yamaha M1 just 0.011s further down on Hayden, making the Spaniard the final rider under the 1:51 barrier.
“I think they’ve built a track they can be proud of,” Hayden commented. “It’s a nice facility, the layout is good and safe. There are some fun sections with blind entries, some fast corners and some slow ones… it’s a nice mix.
“This morning we were second in the dry and then in the afternoon we were third in the wet so it’s been a good day. Casey looks strong too so it’s good for the team and everybody back at the factory, who are working hard to give us the opportunity to be competitive over the last six races. Hopefully we can pick up the kind of results that they deserve.”
Lorenzo was also pleased with his efforts on the opening day of practice after learning the circuit on a Superbike recently.
“I really like this track, it’s so fun to ride and it is quite different, a new challenge,” Lorenzo said. “It is interesting to ride the M1 here after coming here on an R1. We are lacking a bit of grip but I hope we can improve our setting more tomorrow so we can make another step.
“Unfortunately it rained this afternoon but it was good to get the chance to try our wet setting and it seems our bike was okay in these bad conditions. It was good to have two practice sessions today; even though the overall amount of time is the same over four days, four separate sessions makes it easier to get to know the circuit and what we need in order to be fast here.”
Casey Stoner was next up on the time sheet in fourth place, but can be satisfied with his day as whole, having led the wet afternoon practice with a best lap of 2:01.710. He was closely followed in the damp 45-minute session by Lorenzo and Hayden, with Pedrosa unable to match his dry weather form in 13th place.
“In the dry session this morning we were more or less happy with the setting,” Stoner said. “We had a little problem with the balance of the rear wheel that caused some chattering towards the end of the session otherwise I think we could have been a bit faster.
“Anyway, we were satisfied with how the morning went. We haven’t had many wet sessions this year so I think everybody had a lot of work to do this afternoon but we made some progress and at this stage I am happy with the setting in both conditions. As for the circuit, it is quite technical and the last corner is quite different but other than that I don’t think it’s anything out of the ordinary.”
Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini) was the fastest rookie with an overall fifth and a 1:51.768, just a thousandth of a second ahead of fellow Italian and reigning world champion Valentino Rossi (Fiat Yamaha). Héctor Barberá (Páginas Amarillas Aspar) put in an impressive penultimate lap to end seventh, whilst Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), Colin Edwards and Ben Spies (both Monster Yamaha Tech 3) completed the top ten.
There was only one fall during the day with Aleix Espargaró suffering an early high-side on only his second lap out this morning. The Pramac Racing rider fell victim to a cold tyre as he crashed at turn two and fortunately escaped injury, returning to the track shortly after and setting the 13th fastest time.
The third and final practice session takes place at 10:05am local time on Saturday morning, with a 45-minute qualifying session for the Gran Premio A-Style de Aragón due to start at 2:05pm.
In a change to normal scheduling, Moto2 experimented with being the first class out on track for both the morning and afternoon sessions and it was Andrea Iannone who laid down the first marker with a best lap of 1:56.223 on board his Fimmco Speed Up machine in the early practice.
The Italian, who led the unofficial test at the circuit at the start of July, was 0.061s faster than Julián Simón, with whom he is battling closely with for second spot in the championship standings.
In third overall was Mattia Pasini, riding this weekend as a replacement for the injured Michael Ranseder, and who set the quickest time of the afternoon session which was less affected by the rain than the other two classes. His local rival Alex de Angelis was close behind him, the San Marino rider in at the JiR team once more this weekend.
Forward Racing’s Claudio Corti was fifth fastest in the combined time sheets ahead of two Britons, with Scott Redding looking back in form after the injuries he sustained in the tragic events at Misano and his compatriot Kev Coghlan impressing as a wildcard having won the Moto2 race at Aragón in the Spanish national series earlier this year.
Completing the top ten were Tom Lüthi (Interwetten Moriwaki), Championship leader Toni Elías (Gresini Racing) at just under half a second off Iannone, with Hector Faubel (Marc VDS Racing) just behind.
With rain coming just eight minutes into the morning free practice and a wet second session in the afternoon, it was the times set in the initial moments of Friday’s first practice that counted at the end of the day in the 125cc class.
Bancaja Aspar Aprilia’s Nico Terol was quickest out of the blocks as he begins his quest to close the nine-point gap to series leader Marc Marquez. Terol’s time of 2’04.580 placed him 0.247s ahead of Pol Espargaró (Tuenti Racing) and the duo were the only two under 2:05.
Espargaró, who lies third a further eleven points behind Terol was the quickest rider in the completely wet afternoon session.
Smiling after he survived a slight scare in the final moments of that practice, Bradley Smith was third overall at 0.632s down on his team-mate Terol’s effort, whilst Racing Team Germany pair Tomoyoshi Koyama and Jakub Kornfeil completed the top five but both were over two seconds off Terol.
In turn Márquez (Red Bull Ajo Motorsport) placed 21st overall but that was due to his reluctance to risk injury with a fall, as he continues to guard his recovering shoulder. He was just over 10 seconds off Terol’s time having completed seven laps by the conclusion of the morning session, however he was second quickest in the wet, when he set his best time so far this weekend.