Although the weather was initially sunny and warm in Germany this morning, a lunchtime thunderstorm left the Sachsenring circuit soaking wet for the opening free practice session of the German Grand Prix. Nicky Hayden followed up on his good progress at Laguna by staying at the top of the leaderboard for the majority of the session while the track was wet, and when it dried he was still able to run impressive lap times. The incredibly tight pace of the field meant that even though he was only slightly over a half second behind the leader, he dropped down to eighth by the end of the session. Incidentally, that leader was Hayden's Ducati Marlboro teammate Casey Stoner, who was well inside the track record despite damp patches on the circuit.
Nicky Hayden confers with...
Nicky Hayden confers with his crew during practice for the Sachsenring MotoGP race.
"It is nice to be able to come to a track and not have to be trying something radical with the set-up on the first day," said Hayden, "and today we started out with pretty much the settings from Laguna, making a few changes as the session went on. Having said that we are trying a new handlebar here, which isn't normally the kind of thing you do at this stage of the season, but we have changed a lot on the back of the bike so we just needed to compensate a little at the front. Up to now we've been using data from Casey or previous riders to find a base set-up on a Friday but now hopefully we can work from my own data on a consistent basis. My final position today isn't too great but early in the session we were going really well, especially in the wet. We were on top for a long time and in this paddock if you're P1 in the wet, dry or intermediate you have to be riding well and be comfortable with the bike. I think I was third up until the last lap, and it is a thing we need to improve – when I try to really dig in we don't seem able to go faster and it's an area we still need to address in order to improve qualifying in particular. Anyway, here we've started very well so we'll see where we go from here."
Casey Stoner was under the...
Casey Stoner was under the lap record in his first practice session.
Stoner was just as happy for Hayden's improved form as he was about the performance of the Desmosedici GP9. "It would have been better to have a full wet session because even from the first two laps the track was starting to dry and you don't get such good feedback. The bike seems to be working well, we had to change a few small things - like the seat, to make it a bit more comfortable - but generally over the last three races it has been great and I'm quite happy with it here. We're improving the GP9 step by step and I think you can see that by Nicky's recent results, which I'm really pleased about." The Australian was still bothered by the apparent "slight gastritis and mild anemia" he was diagnosed with just after the Laguna race. "Physically I feel the same as I did at this stage in the last few races so if it rains again tomorrow it would probably be beneficial to me because I'm sure it would leave me in better shape for the race and give us a much better chance of challenging for the win."
New electronics on his Yamaha...
New electronics on his Yamaha M1 have given Colin Edwards more speed.
Meanwhile, Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Colin Edwards gained some added confidence with a "new/old" chassis setup, and found some added speed courtesy of new electronics on his YZR-M1. "Looking at last year's race I knew the Bridgestone rain tire was awesome, so it gave me chance to sort some of the issues out I've had in the wet recently. Previously I've had too much weight on the rear but now we've got it more balanced and it felt really good. For the dry we went back to my old setting that I pretty much rolled out at the first race in Qatar with and it was like coming home. We'd gone off the right path and I've not had any feeling with the front in the last few races. The bike hasn't been turning but the changes we've made with the front forks have transformed the way I feel. Now the bike is doing what I want it to because before I couldn't get the front set-up, I couldn't get into the corner and I had too much weight on the front with no feeling and no confidence. Now there's more weight on the rear and I can control weight transfer more without it all pushing to the front. I tried some new electronics today too and they are fantastic. It used to be so much effort to manage the bike under acceleration, but now it is incredible. I want to say a massive thanks to Yamaha because what they have put on my bike is like gold dust. It's a lot less effort to control the bike when I'm accelerating and it is giving me some crucial tenths."