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De Puniet leads the pack
Phillip Island : MotoGP - Day One
Few would have expected to see Randy de Puniet top the timesheet on Friday evening as the preparation for the Australian GP started.
However, the French Kawasaki rider made a strong impression leading the afternoon free practice session
almost from start to finish and dominantly fending off the assault of an experienced Loris Capirossi under the chequered flag.

In a late charge, De Puniet was the first to break the 1'30 barrier to set a fastest lap of 1'29''745 and dig a five tenths of a second gap between his Kawasaki and the Ducati of Capirossi who had led the first practice session in front of his team mate.

It was quite a Bridgestone affair on this opening day of action as the Kawasaki and Ducati mixed it out at the front. Only both Suzuki of Hopkins and Vermeulen went missing for the Japanese tyre manufacturer, lapping respectively in quite disappointing twelth and fourteenth positions.

As far as the world championship leaders are concerned, Nicky Hayden emerged on top. The Kentucky kid put his Repsol Honda in third place, seven tenths of a second off Randy's time, thus dividing the ‘red and green' group in two as Gibernau and Nakano went fourth and fifth fastest.

Yamaha rider Valentino Rossi worked hard on the set-up of his YZR-M1 and ended the day in eighth. The Italian edged out Roberts Jr KR211V, while his Texan team mate Colin Edwards was thirteenth.

Quick in the morning session, local rider Casey Stoner couldn't match his early pace and somewhat fell down the order, from third to sixth place . Melandri and Checa, quite impressive on his Dunlop-shod Yamaha, also made it to the top ten.

And Pedrosa ? The young Spaniard, who bravely took third in Malaysia, is set for a tough weekend in Australia as he is still enduring pain from his knee injury. Riding cautiously, Dani registered the seventeenth fastest time of the day.
Sandrine BOUCHARD © CAPSIS International

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