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Cloudy Jerez offers Rossi the chance to shine again

Cloudy Jerez offers Rossi the chance to shine again

Cloudy Jerez offers Rossi the chance to shine again

Having lost around a day and a half of testing to rain at the Catalunya circuit this past weekend, the last thing the MotoGP teams wanted to be greeted by in Jerez were the same rain clouds which had interrupted the 125 and 250 teams' official practice earlier this week.

At the second of the MotoGP official tests, this time in the south of Spain, overnight showers impeded the riders from lapping on a dry track this morning, even though the rain itself had stopped falling. Few chose to brave the in-between conditions, and all were forced to wait until around three in the afternoon before making their first dry laps of the 4.423 kilometre circuit.

As expected, the action really heated up once the riders could finally push their machines to the absolute limit, and with all MotoGP teams except Aprilia out on track, there was a real battle for supremacy amongst the fastest in the sport.

After surprising many with his performance on board the Yamaha in Catalunya where he was fastest, Valentino Rossi is keen to show that his feat in Montmelo was no flash in the pan, and prove that his move from Honda to its rival factory is one which can see him crowned MotoGP World Champion once more.

The defending champion was the first to ride under circuit record time today, and throughout the afternoon he pushed the limits of his new Yamaha M1 to end up with a scorching final benchmark of 1'42.656, inside his own circuit record time by 0.132 seconds.

Rain stopped the practice early at about half-past five in the afternoon, leaving the rest of the field unable to better Rossi's record-breaking time, and leaving the Italian sitting pretty atop the rest once more. Surprises continued to emerge behind Rossi, with Kenny Roberts lying just underneath the Italian in the standings, showing the massive step Suzuki and Bridgestone have made throughout the winter.

To confirm this, not only did they have the 2000 500cc World Champion in second place, but his team-mate John Hopkins, who is still recovering from a serious ankle injury, recorded the sixth fastest time of the day.

Colin Edwards was the fastest of the Honda riders in third place, whilst Carlos Checa underlined Yamaha's development advances by snatching fourth in front of his old factory colleague Alex Barros, who has made the switch back to Honda this close-season.

Kawasaki's new lead rider, Japan's popular Shinya Nakano, lay in seventh, another factory proving that a winter's worth of hard work and development can pay dividends. The top ten was rounded-off by some of the pre-season favourites Sete Gibernau, Nicky Hayden and Makoto Tamada, all on Hondas, whilst another contender, four-times 250cc World Champion Max Biaggi, was eleventh, also on Honda.

It was the turn of the Ducati riders to struggle today, with reigning World Superbike champion Neil Hodgson their top rider on the Desmosedici, taking thirteenth behind Alex Hofmann on the Kawasaki. Factory pair Loris Capirossi and Troy Bayliss were a lowly sixteenth and seventeenth, as they get to grips with the 2004 version of the Italian machine which took them to second place in the constructors championship last year.

Practice continues tomorrow at Jerez, with more rain forecast throughout the day, but the teams will be hoping that they can fit in at least as much time on the track as today in order to make the most of the final test session before the season begins in Welkom on April 18th.

Lap times supplied by the Circuito de Jerez:

1. V. Rossi (Yamaha); 1'42.656 - 39 laps
2. K. Roberts (Suzuki); 1'42.761 - 39 laps
3. C. Edwards (Honda); 1'42.771 - 40 laps
4. C. Checa (Yamaha); 1'42.927 - 50 laps
5. A. Barros (Honda); 1'42.974 - 43 laps
6. J. Hopkins (Suzuki); 1'43.314 - 47 laps
7. S. Nakano (Kawasaki); 1'43.386 - 40 laps
8. S. Gibernau (Honda); 1'43.408 - 30 laps
9. N. Hayden (Honda); 1'43.457 - 43 laps
10. M. Tamada (Honda); 1'43.541 - 40 laps
11. M. Biaggi (Honda); 1'43.980 - 40 laps
12. A. Hofmann (Kawasaki); 1'44.009 - 49 laps
13. N. Hodgson (Ducati); 1'44.140 - 45 laps
14. M. Melandri (Yamaha); 1'44.470; 55 laps
15. G. Lavilla (Suzuki); 1'44.494 - 48 laps
16. L. Capirossi (Ducati); 1'44.544 - 27 laps
17. T. Bayliss (Ducati); 1'44.595 - 45 laps
18. R. Xaus (Ducati); 1'44.662 - 50 laps
19. N. Abe (Yamaha); 1'45.564 - 47 laps
20. V. Guareschi (Ducati); 1'48.730 - 29 laps
21. N. Aoki (Proton KR); 1'49.414 - 16 laps

Tags:
MotoGP, 2004

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