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Melandri shows early form at talisman track

Melandri shows early form at talisman track

Melandri shows early form at talisman track

Marco Melandri continued his impressive start to the season with the fastest lap on the first day of action at the Gran Premi Gauloises de Catalunya today. Melandri posted a string of hot times at the end of this afternoon's second free practice session to leave a benchmark of 1'43.651, just out of the reach of his resurgent Honda colleague Makoto Tamada, who looks to have put his early season injury woes firmly behind him. After a disappointing showing in the last round at Mugello, Colin Edwards bounced back to form with the third fastest time overall today, having set the pace in the morning free practice ahead of his Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi.

"We started off with the base setting we found here in the winter tests and I felt comfortable straight away," said Melandri, who lies second to Rossi in the championship standings and took third place in this race last season. "We made some adjustments in the afternoon and tried some new tyres from Michelin, which gave me a lot of grip at maximum lean. Tomorrow I want to try and improve my performance in the last section because I think I can make more time up there. In any case, I'm not getting too excited – there is a long way to go this weekend."

Rossi was one of several riders unable to improve their times from the opening session in rising temperatures this afternoon and the reigning World Champion dropped to fifth fastest overall behind Nicky Hayden. Alex Barros, John Hopkins and Sete Gibernau were also unable to improve, giving Loris Capirossi the opportunity to boost his overnight position to sixth ahead of the trio.

Max Biaggi did improve in the afternoon but was only able to make it as high as tenth fastest, just five days after taking a close second place to Rossi in his home race at Mugello. Shinya Nakano and Troy Bayliss complete the theoretical fourth row in eleventh and twelfth place respectively, although grid positions will not be decided until tomorrow afternoon's single qualifying session.

Toni Elías will not be competing, however, after a brief but unsuccessful return to action just 25 days after breaking his wrist and fracturing his leg in a testing crash at Le Mans. The Spaniard was only able to complete 14 laps today, with just four of those coming in the afternoon session before he returned to his Yamaha pit box in severe pain, and he will be replaced for the rest of the weekend by David Checa, who already deputised for Elías at Mugello.


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