Scorching sunshine welcomed the MotoGP paddock to Motegi today as the fifteenth round of the season got underway at the Japanese track. Temperatures reached a maximum of 34 degrees during this afternoon's free practice and it was a difficult day's work for the riders and teams alike, with Fiat Yamaha pair Colin Edwards and Valentino Rossi finishing the day 11th and 14th respectively in the combined standings, which were topped by Dani Pedrosa.
Just five days after his spectacular victory in Portugal, Rossi got off to a less auspicious start today, finishing the morning session fifth but dropping to fourteenth this afternoon after his number one bike suffered a technical problem and he was forced to complete the hour on his second machine. Edwards meanwhile did not fare much better, finding himself down in 13th this morning and climbing just two places in the second session, despite making some improvements to his set-up this afternoon.At the practice Colin Edwards - Position: 11th Time: 1'48.614 Laps: 46
"This morning and early this afternoon things were not looking good at all! We couldn't find the right setting or the right tyre and we were crossing our fingers that something was going to work out for us.
Mid-way through the afternoon however we tried our last tyre and we were immediately one second faster, so at least there's no doubt now that's the right direction to follow. We've got a lot more work to do, both on setting and with the tyres, so we need to have a good look at the situation tonight to make sure we make the most of the time we've got left to us. We were two seconds off the pace and now we've closed that gap to one but that's still way too much and we're really going to have to pull out all the stops tomorrow."
For the Kawasaki Racing Team today as Randy de Puniet, Anthony West and Akira Yanagawa mounted their Ninja ZX-RR machines and took to the circuit at Motegi.
De Puniet showed he was on form by ending the first two free practices in second place, on combined times, after putting in blistering performances in both the morning and afternoon sessions. With a best time of 1'48.254 at the end of the day, he knocked nearly half a second off his previous best, assisted by a lightning top speed of 284.8kmh.
The 26-year-old Frenchman is determined to do well this weekend after a hugely disappointing Portuguese Grand Prix last week saw him retire with a mechanical problem. Happy with the progress made in setting up the bike so far, and riding at a scorching pace throughout the day, de Puniet is very much on course for the podium spot which, so far this season, has eluded him.
Team mate, West, started the day in less positive fashion, still unable to find enough grip to give him the confidence to fulfil his and the bike's potential. However, by the end of the afternoon session, the 26-year-old Australian was smiling as his best time of 1'48.529 put him in eighth position, just 0.030 seconds behind last year's winner at Motegi, Loris Capirossi, and ahead of current world champion, Nicky Hayden. Assorted suspension tweaks and some successful choices of Bridgestone tyres seemed to have done the job in helping West feel more at home on the Ninja than he has at previous rounds.