World Champion Valentino Rossi got straight on the pace on Friday in Australia, setting the fastest time in FP1 by a 0.135s margin in cool, calm and dry conditions at Phillip Island.
The six-time premier class title winner wants to maintain or increase his 18 point championship lead this weekend at the Iveco Australian Grand Prix ahead of the final two rounds of the season and he started on the front foot on day one.
Rossi looked comfortable throughout the session and completed 31 laps of the island circuit, registering his best effort of 1’31.032 on his tenth turn around the 4.448km track.
Second fastest was Australia’s Casey Stoner – the winner of his home race for the last two years – as he registered his fastest time on the very last of his 22 laps on the Ducati Marlboro Desmosedici GP9.
Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) is looking to make amends for his crash in last year’s race and will be aiming for the podium this weekend after starting with the third best time of the first session. The Spaniard was half a second down on Rossi’s pace.
Alex de Angelis (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) were fourth and fifth respectively on their satellite 800cc prototypes, both lapping within a second of Rossi.
It was certainly a case of ‘first round’ to Rossi in the psychological battle with his main championship rival and team-mate Jorge Lorenzo as the Majorcan rider lowsided near the end of the session and could only manage the sixth best time of the afternoon – more than a second off the Italian’s hot lap.
The top ten was completed by James Toseland (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda), Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing) and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki).
Toseland and Kallio both had low speed crashes, whilst Kallio’s colleague Niccolò Canepa also hit the deck and was taken to the medical centre for a check-up on his right elbow – and has since been ruled out for the rest of the Grand Prix.