Pedrosa the benchmark in Laguna as Hayden re-signs for Ducati
The MotoGP™ contingent was greeted by sunny Californian skies as it took to the Laguna Seca circuit for the first two practice sessions of the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix on Friday, where Repsol Honda Team’s Dani Pedrosa set the pace in the afternoon session ahead of Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner.
Pedrosa, using a new frame and engine, posted a time in the low 1m21s beating the previous circuit record. This displaced Yamaha Factory Racing’s championship leader Lorenzo into second spot, who was just over three-tenths off the pace. Pedrosa’s teammate Casey Stoner went third quickest by a narrow margin, yet was held up on his final hot-lap in the afternoon by traffic, forcing him to run off track briefly. Stoner has opted to use the new engine, yet prefers to stay with the frame he has used all season.
Fourth spot on the timesheet was occupied by Yamaha’s Ben Spies, who earlier this week announced he will leave the team at the end of the season, whilst not disclosing any future plans. In fifth, Monster Yamaha Tech 3’s Andrea Dovizioso was in good shape looking to put in a solid performance, to aid in his challenge for the soon to be vacant factory seat. His teammate Cal Crutchlow posted the sixth quickest time of the day, despite suffering a heavy crash in the afternoon going into turn 10. He was fortunately unhurt in the incident.
Seventh spot went to two-times Laguna Seca winner, Ducati Team’s Nicky Hayden, who earlier in the day confirmed a one-year contract extension with the Italian team. In eighth, LCR Honda MotoGP’s Stefan Bradl had a good day on his first MotoGP outing at the Californian track, posting his fastest time in the afternoon session just under 1.5s off the top. Ducati’s Valentino Rossi set the ninth quickest time of the day, yet also suffered a crash going into turn three, which prompted the session to be red-flagged for the damaged air-fence to be repaired. San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Álvaro Bautista, who crashed at the same turn as Rossi shortly beforehand, came in tenth. Both riders walked away unscathed.
Power Electronics Aspar’s Aleix Espargaró was the fastest CRT in 11th, ahead of teammate Randy de Puniet. NGM Mobile Forward Racing’s Colin Edwards was in resurgent form coming in 13th, ousting Pramac Racing Team’s Toni Elías into 14th, who is standing in for the injured Héctor Barberá this weekend. Attack Performance wildcard Steve Rapp, who is running an in-house built APR CRT machine, ended the day in 22nd, just under seven seconds off the front.
Photo: DMT Imaging