While Valentino Rossi has hailed Yamaha’s new seamless shift gearbox as a “fantastic” upgrade to the M1, it was Honda riders who dominated the opening day of practice for Sunday’s San Marino Grand Prix.
Rookie sensation Marc Marquez was in stunning form, mastering a series of lurid slides to set the fastest time in both sessions.
He finished just 0.033s ahead of Repsol Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa, with Rossi and current world champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) third and fourth, respectively.
And Rossi had the best seat in the house for what he faces on Sunday at his home race on his local Misano Circuit near his home in Tavullia.
He sat in Marquez’s Honda slipstream for almost three laps during the afternoon session in an early preview to what many hope will transpire on Sunday: a race between veteran Rossi, 34, and wonder-boy Marquez, 20.
“I enjoyed being on track with Marc because his style is very funny and it is a great show,” said Rossi who was just 0.2s slower than Marquez.
“He was a bit faster than me but not a lot, so we could stay together. But it is very difficult to compare styles between the Yamaha and the Honda, especially in braking and corner entry.
“You ride the M1 in a completely different way to the Honda.
“But our new gearbox is fantastic; it is a big help for the rider, although there is no big gain in time over one lap.
“The bike is more stable in acceleration and you can concentrate more on the line and bring the bike to the limit.
“And with the seamless gearbox the difference is the electronic setup because the bike wheelies less, so you can use less control under acceleration but the mechanical setup is the same.”
While Rossi was upbeat, Lorenzo was mystified by what he felt was a lack of grip resulting in the fourth-fastest time, 0.295s behind Marquez.
“I’m not sure if the track has less grip or it is something in our setup, but certainly I feel less confident to push at the maximum on the front and also under acceleration,” Lorenzo said.
The surprise of first-day practice at a warm and sunny Misano was Spanish rider Aleix Espargaro, who was fifth fastest on his CRT class ART-Aprilia ahead of both factory Ducatis (Andrea Dovizioso and Nicky Hayden) and the satellite Honda RC213Vs of Alvaro Bautista and Stefan Bradl.