As Loris Capirossi takes charge
Bridgestone-shod Ducati rider Loris Capirossi picked up from where he left off in Brno by setting the pace on the opening day of this weekend's Malaysian GP in Sepang.
The Italian took charge in style by breaking his pole position record
from 2005 on race tyres to finish three-tenths-of-a-second clear of his nearest challenger, Dani Pedrosa. Capirossi's best lap of 2m01.711s was 0.02s faster than his pole time from last season and one second faster than his pace-setting morning time.
All three of Bridgestone's teams, Ducati, Suzuki and Kawasaki, enjoyed strong presence within the top half of the field in today's free practice sessions. Suzuki's John Hopkins was within a second of Capirossi's best lap to claim the fourth quickest time (2m02.710s), while Capirossi's team-mate Sete Gibernau returned to form from his recent injury woes to clock the eighth quickest time of the day (2m02.981s).
Shinya Nakano rounded off the top ten (2m03.100s) with an encouraging performance for Kawasaki. His team-mate Randy de Puniet and Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen finished the day just 0.014s apart in 13th (2m03.418s) and 14th (2m03.432s) respectively.
Shinji Aoki, Assistant Manager Motorcycle Race Tire Development, said: "That was a pretty trouble-free and encouraging day for Bridgestone. The fact that Loris was able to better his pole position time from last season in race trim is impressive. We evaluated a selection of different tyre specifications today in order to gauge the correct direction for the rest of the weekend.
The track conditions have a big influence on tyre performance at Sepang and the slightest fluctuation in temperature has a dramatic effect on the overall lap time."
"As always at Sepang, the circuit was somewhat dirty and not as hot during the morning session, but as rubber went down and the track rose to 45°C in the afternoon session, the lap times dropped significantly," he added. "While we are satisfied with the results of each of our three teams, today was about obtaining an initial feeling from the tyres and a clearer picture will only be revealed tomorrow when we begin the endurance and longevity tests over race distance. That said, to see Ducati, Suzuki and Kawasaki consistently in the top ten throughout the day certainly bodes well for Bridgestone's Malaysian Grand Prix."