Motorcycling: Pedrosa marks new deal with quick celebration

Dani Pedrosa, boosted by signing a new two-year deal with Honda yesterday, continued his superb recent form by topping the practice timesheets during yesterday's running ahead of the inaugural Aragon Grand Prix.

The 24-year-old Spaniard won the last two races in Indianapolis and Misano and he topped the first of yesterday's two sessions near Alcaniz, setting a best time of one minute 50.506 seconds.

The day's second session, added to the schedule, along with a third session this morning, to allow the riders to familiarise themselves with their new surroundings, was washed out by rain with no one able to better their times from the morning.

Casey Stoner, who will partner Pedrosa at Honda next year, set the pace during that session following rain.

Pedrosa's dominance in the morning saw him beat the Ducati of Nicky Hayden into second by a full four tenths of a second, with championship leader Jorge Lorenzo third for Yamaha ahead of the other Ducati of Stoner.

Marco Simoncelli was an excellent fifth on his Gresini Honda, ahead of Valentino Rossi and Hector Barbera, who continues to impress on the Aspar Ducati. Andrea Dovizioso, Colin Edwards and Ben Spies rounded out the top 10. But the wet afternoon session saw Pedrosa struggle badly and he will be hoping that the remainder of the weekend is dry after ending the second 45-minute session way back in 13th place, a full 3.6 seconds off Stoner's pace.

The Australian took advantage of a drying track surface to beat Lorenzo by over half a second in the dying moments.

Hayden, who looked strong throughout both sessions, was third fastest in the damp with Rossi fourth and Marco Melandri fifth on the second Gresini machine.

Lorenzo, who leads Pedrosa by 63 points in the standings, was disappointed at his relative lack of pace in the morning, but was happier with how his M1 handled in the wet.

"We are lacking a bit of grip but I hope we can improve our setting more tomorrow so we can make another step," he said. "Unfortunately it rained this afternoon but it was good to get the chance to try our wet setting and it seems our bike was OK in these bad conditions. It was good to have two practice sessions today; even though the overall amount of time is the same over four days, four separate sessions makes it easier to get to know the circuit and what we need to be fast here."

The new circuit met with almost universal approval from the riders and teams, with Tech 3 Yamaha racer Spies among those enjoying the new challenge.

The Texan said: "I really like the track. It has got some good elevation changes that make it pretty cool and the first couple of corners remind me of Istanbul Park [in Turkey] on the video game. You know it is a fun track when you want to stay out and ride and that's how I felt today.

"I was pleased with progress in the dry this morning and I'm really happy with how it went in the rain."

Japanese motorcycle racer Shoya Tomizawa has been given a posthumous award by fellow Moto2 riders and his racing number 48 has been retired from the championship as a tribute. Tomizawa, 19, died in a crash at this month's San Marino Grand Prix at Misano. Promoters Dorna said in a statement that Moto2 riders had voted unanimously at the Aragon Grand Prix in Spain to award Tomizawa the season's Michel Metraux trophy for the best rider in the category. The trophy will be presented to the rider's family at the Japanese Grand Prix next month.