Hayden opens the action with fastest Friday times in Valencia

2008-10-24 02:18
Determined to take a pole position and race victory to sign-off his stay with Repsol Honda, Nicky Hayden took the initiative in the MotoGP Free Practice sessions on Friday. The American was the quickest in both the morning opener and matinee performance in preparation for the Gran Premio Parts Europe de la Comunitat Valenciana, the final race of the 2008 season.

Whereas in 2006 Hayden was getting soaked by Cava on the Sunday in Valencia after confirming the World Championship title, in this year's initial pair of sessions the only spray was that thrown up from the track in a damp day of riding. The words 'rainy' and 'foggy' may bring back fond memories to motorcycle fans, but for the riders such conditions will make fine-tuning their setups extra difficult in preparation for race day.

Hayden recorded a 1'45.777 lap in the quicker afternoon session, edging out teammate and 2007 Valencia racewinner Dani Pedrosa by less than a tenth of a second. Pedrosa produced the fastest top speed of the session at 301.8km/h, over 6km/h more than any other rider.

Behind the factory Honda duo, Fiat Yamaha made their own collective charge for the top of the timesheet, led by Spanish rookie Jorge Lorenzo. The 800cc debutant is using a special white livery adorned with various flags this weekend, and with such an eye-catching design the onus is on him to go fast. He was just under two-tenths of a second down on Hayden's time, at the scene of his first formal test for Yamaha one year ago.

Teammate and 2008 MotoGP World Champion Valentino Rossi placed fourth in the session, although his day was blighted by a lowside crash on the final turn of the track. Unable to restart his M1, Rossi had to return to the garage by foot in order to ride the second bike, but he put his standby machine to good use with times faster than those of the morning session.

A crasher in the pre-lunch session, Ducati's Casey Stoner was fifth quickest, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso, Randy de Puniet, Sylvain Guintoli, Colin Edwards and Shinya Nakano. Over 1.5 seconds separated the top ten.

Also crashing in the session was Toni Elias, flung from his satellite Ducati bike early on.

In an afternoon qualifying session in which four of the top five riders all suffered crashes, home participant Alex Debon put himself on provisional pole for the Gran Premio Parts Europe de la Comunitat Valenciana. The Lotus Aprilia rider came back from a lowside fall to put down a time of 1'50.001, nearly four-tenths of a second quicker than anything any other 250cc rider could muster in a damp outing.

Red Bull KTM riders Hiroshi Aoyama and Mika Kallio -- both entering their final race for their current team before moving on to pastures new, were the two closest to Debon's marker, separated by just 0.005. Aoyama fell early on in the session, whilst future Ducati MotoGP satellite rider Kallio left his machine in an unhealthy shape after crashing late.

Rounding off the provisional front row is new World Champion Marco Simoncelli, who avoided hitting the deck. The Metis Gilera man had previously been the fastest rider in the morning run.

One of the final riders to crash on a tricky Friday afternoon, Mattia Pasini heads the temporary second row. He is joined by Julian Simon, Imre Toth and Lukas Pesek, with series runner-up Alvaro Bautista leading off row three.

Aiming for his fourth pole position of the 2008 campaign -- and second place in the overall standings- Simone Corsi got off on the right track in the wet at Valencia with the provisional 125cc top spot. The Italian recorded a time of 1'59.809 in the first qualifying session for the Gran Premio Parts Europe de la Comunitat Valenciana, an outing that took place on a soaking circuit.

Jack&Jones WRB rider Corsi was just over a tenth of a second faster than nearest rival Lorenzo Zanetti, as the ISPA Aran KTM rider once again proved to be adept at tackling a wet track. Stopping the clock at dead on 2'00, Stevie Bonsey was third quickest in the session, despite a crash late on in the session that saw him hanging onto his DeGraaf Grand Prix Aprilia as it rode through the gravel.

Dominique Aegerter placed fourth, with Bonsey's teammate Danny Webb showing the same kind of qualifying form that took him to an eventually ill-fated front row last weekend in Malaysia.

Home rider Nico Terol was also in the top ten, ahead of Hugo van den Berg, Joan Olive, Raffaele de Rosa and Robin Lasser. 2007 World Champion Gabor Talmacsi finished the session eleventh fastest, whilst new titlist Mike di Meglio languished in 25th after a crash.

Source: Dorna

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