MotoGP bikes on track for first day of official tests

2006-03-03 06:02
Today saw the start of the MotoGP Official Test for the premier class of MotoGP. Following on from the 125cc and 250cc categories' sessions at the Circuit de Catalunya which have been running since Monday, the MotoGP teams took to the track for the first of three days of testing.

After John Hopkins and Colin Edwards had started promisingly in the morning, it was World Champion Valentino Rossi who led the table at 1pm local time. The Yamaha rider had only begun testing just after 12.30, and within six laps he was already heading the timesheets. The Italian later clocked an even faster time of 1'43.608 to confirm his dominance.

The flamboyant Rossi did however suffer a crash during the eight-hour long session, which brought out the red flags, and the Italian decided to call an end to his testing for the day after the incident, which occurred just after 3.30pm. Nonetheless, his time stood strong for the remainder of the afternoon, and he headed up a Yamaha one-two-three, with team-mate Colin Edwards and home-rider Carlos Checa trailing him on board the M1.

It was something of a special occasion for Checa, who after moving from Ducati to Honda last year lost his MotoGP ride in early January. However a last-minute package was put together by the Tech3 team and Dunlop to allow the Spaniard to continue this season, and their faith in one of the most experienced riders in the sport got at least some small reward today.

Behind the Yamaha trio came the newly-liveried Rizla Suzuki of John Hopkins, with Nicky Hayden top Honda rider in fifth, and Shinya Nakano in sixth place on the Kawasaki. Ducati's new rider Sete Gibernau was seventh fastest at his home track, with former team-mate and last year's championship runner-up Marco Melandri just behind him. Toni Elias was ninth fastest after his move from Yamaha to Honda over winter, with Makoto Tamada finishing tenth.

Earlier this week, Jorge Lorenzo was the fastest 250cc rider on Wednesday, and subsequently repeated his leaderboard-topping form in Thursday's eight-hour session. Having set a fastest lap of 1'46.563 he was only three-tenths off Dani Pedrosa's pole-winning time from last season at this track.

Despite suffering a crash half an hour before the end of the session, Alex de Angelis came in second quickest with a time of 1'47.232, whilst 250cc's surprise package was Czech rider Jakub Smrz, who continued his intriguing success at the Circuit de Catalunya finishing third fastest.

The big news from 125cc was the crash suffered by Thomas Lüthi. Switzerland's reigning World Champion fractured his left collarbone in the incident, and doctors have recommended that he misses the MotoGP Official Test in Jerez next week in order to recover without surgery. The Swiss rider is still expected to compete in the first race of the season, the Gran Premio de España on March 26th.

His main rival from last year, Finland's Mika Kallio, topped the leaderboard with a fastest lap of 1'50.849, three tenths of a second off Hector Barbera's 2004 lap record. Lukas Pesek and Alvaro Bautista came in second and third, whilst the top five was completed by Sergio Gadea and Angel Rodriguez.

The weekend's fastest laps are likely to occur on Sunday, when the third annual BMW M Award takes place. A forty-minute televised session in which riders compete to earn the fastest lap starts at just after 2pm local time, with a brand new BMW Z4 M Roadster going up for grabs for the winner. The previous winners of the competition are Valentino Rossi and Sete Gibernau.

Cloud is predicted for tomorrow, Saturday, with a forecasted drop in temperature and light rain for Sunday's final MotoGP Official Test day at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Source: Dorna Communications

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