The Italian riders Marco Melandri and Loris Capirossi yesterday finished first and third fastest in the opening practice sessions for tomorrow's German MotoGP at the Sachsenring.
Melandri is recovering from a fractured right collarbone but he managed to break the track record by more than half a second on his Fortuna Honda. "It still hurts, but the shoulder is getting better and I was pleased with today," he said.
Capirossi, who sustained severe internal chest contusions in the same crash as Melandri at Barcelona, hustled his Marlboro Ducati around the 2.284-mile track in 1min 23.49sec, a third of a second behind Melandri.
Dani Pedrosa, the 20-year-old Spaniard, was second fastest on his Repsol Honda.
With only eight races remaining, five riders can win the title. The American Nicky Hayden leads the series with 153 points on his Repsol Honda. Capirossi holds fifth place with 107 points, and between the two are Pedrosa, the reigning champion Valentino Rossi (Camel Yamaha) and Melandri.
The season has produced five race winners, nine riders on the podium and 13 front-row starters. After a difficult start to the season, Rossi is trying to grind his rivals into submission in order to win his sixth straight title. He finished seventh fastest yesterday after set-up problems.
"I have not got comfortable with the bike or the track today," he said. "We are trying a whole sack of things to make the bike better, but we haven't found the best way to work yet. I am still confident because the engineers have shown in the past few races when I have been injured that they have a great ability to set the bike up using a minimal amount of data."
"We're struggling," his team-mate Colin Edwards said. "The bike feels a bit rough in a few sections and we need some drastic changes to get it working."
Jonathan Rea, 19, yesterday broke the circuit record at Knockhill on his Red Bull Honda Fireblade and beat the series leaders Gregorio Lavilla and Leon Haslam (Airwaves Ducatis) in practice for tomorrow's two British Superbike Championship races.