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Hayden opens MotoGP Official Test with early Jerez marker

Hayden opens MotoGP Official Test with early Jerez marker

The MotoGP Official Test, regarded by the World Championship riders as one of the key events of the preseason, got underway today at Spain's Circuito de Jerez.

The MotoGP Official Test, regarded by the World Championship riders as one of the key events of the preseason, got underway today at Spain's Circuito de Jerez. Fans seemed to share the competitors' enthusiasm for the first of three days of testing, with the paddock and grandstands welcoming a healthy turnout of MotoGP aficionados.

On track, Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden was the fastest rider of the day onboard the RC212V. The 2006 MotoGP World Champion, who emphasised his title credentials at an official launch in Zaragoza this past week, let his riding do the talking with a scorching 1'39.200 lap on qualifiers in the final hour of the session.

The American was also the man with the most laps to his name, as has become something of a trademark throughout his MotoGP career. Today he put in 107 as he continues to work on preparing every variable of his updated 800cc machine.

Continuing what has been a fine preseason, Honda satellite rider Randy de Puniet was also up amongst the business end of the timesheets. He saved his fastest run on Michelin qualifiers for his very last lap of the day, riding round just over two tenths of a second slower than Hayden. LCR Honda's sole rider, like the rest of the Japanese factory's satellite contingent, has been awaiting a new engine for this latest test after working with the 2007 model during much of the preseason.

Victorious in the past two 250cc races in Jerez, Jorge Lorenzo is proving equally at home at his home circuit onboard his 800cc Fiat Yamaha YZR-M1. The MotoGP rookie headed a trio of Michelin-shod Yamaha riders in the opening day's top five, ahead of Tech 3 Yamaha satellite duo Colin Edwards and James Toseland. The Anglo-American partnership were debuting a new yellow and blue livery today, but would have stood out anyway with Edwards' testing renaissance continuing unabated and Toseland's upward progression in preparation for his rookie season in MotoGP.

The top five were the only riders to go round with times under the 1'40 mark, although with discrepancies in the use of qualifiers-race tyres and focus of work there is not too much cause for concern for the trailing pack. Whilst Michelin hold the early advantage, the first real test of the state of play in the 2008 tyre war will come tomorrow, when their riders do battle with those using Bridgestone rubber for the BMW M Award.

San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alex de Angelis and Shinya Nakano, also running a new livery from this weekend, followed on from their work at the most recent test in Sepang with further fast times in Jerez. The duo were separated by just under three hundredths of a second, albeit half a second off fifth placed Toseland.

Last year's most mercurial rider at the Official Test, Valentino Rossi, set his quickest time on day one comparatively early in proceedings, on lap 32 of 92. The Italian was modelling new attire on a ‘one time only' deal; a cake-themed helmet designed to celebrate his 29th birthday. He may be one of the favourites to take home the BMW Z4 M Roadster at the end of the test, but as of yet ‘The Doctor' has not come close to his 1'38.394 time from last year.

Below Rossi in the timesheets was 2007 MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner, who returned to the scene of a late November shoulder-damaging crash onboard his Ducati Desmosedici GP8. Whilst that injury has more or less been fully healed, Stoner was today suffering from a wrist problem that saw some fervent discussion with the Clinica Mobile team.

Also riding injured in Jerez were testing returnees Dani Pedrosa and John Hopkins, two men still sore from respective hand and groin injuries picked up over the course of the preseason. Neither was able to crack the top ten, with Pedrosa 12th fastest and Hopkins 17th, although for both riders a return to race condition is the more immediate aim of this latest three day testing stint.

The first real ‘head-to-head' event of 2008 takes place tomorrow in Jerez, as the regular MotoGP riders and their test rider counterparts duke it out in a 40 minute ‘qualifying session'; the BMW M Award. The physical prize on offer is a BMW Z4 M Roadster, although victory in the shootout could prove to be an important psychological advantage ahead of an exciting new season.

MotoGP, 2008

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