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Gibernau sets pace on first day of practice at Jerez

Gibernau sets pace on first day of practice at Jerez

Gibernau sets pace on first day of practice at Jerez

Sete Gibernau was the quickest rider on a cool and cloudy opening day of action at the Gran Premio Marlboro de España at Jerez on Friday. Due to the MotoGP World Championship's new qualification format, which sees only the final session contribute to the formation of Sunday's grid, today's two free practice sessions presented the riders with a chance to build on the machine set-up work they had begun at this circuit during three days of tests two weeks ago.

Gibernau went head-to-head with Valentino Rossi almost as soon as the track opened for the morning session, lapping inside pole record with a time of 1'40.800 as he looked to strike the first psychological blow in what promises to be another colossal challenge for the title between the pair. The pace set by the Spaniard and the Italian was not bettered by any of the riders as the track cooled in the afternoon, leaving the pair separated by just 0.086 seconds overnight.

"I think the good preseason the team have had, together with Honda and Michelin, is starting to show," commented Gibernau. "We have to be satisfied with the first day because we're on top and we've still got room for improvement. It's the first time the afternoon session hasn't counted for qualifying and we used it to find a good race setting, completing as many laps as possible on the race tyres, and the pace we set was very satisfactory."

The young trio of Nicky Hayden, John Hopkins and Marco Melandri, the three fastest riders from the final preseason test here, posed the biggest threat in the afternoon and look certain to challenge for the podium in Sunday's race. Meanwhile, Max Biaggi had a more than productive afternoon as he knocked a spectacular 1.3 seconds off his morning lap time to move up to sixth place.

Shinya Nakano also made significant progress on the Kawasaki to end the session seventh fastest ahead of Colin Edwards, who lost two tenths of a second from his lap time between the morning and afternoon sessions after making set-up changes to his Yamaha.


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