Fourth and fifth places for Randy de Puniet and Alex de Angelis made Friday free practice at the Sachsenring a promising session for the satellite Honda riders.
de Puniet put his LCR machine fastest of all with 15 minutes to go on the drying track, although his best lap - just 0.354sec behind fastest man Casey Stoner - came in the closing minutes.
“It was a good first session and I am quite satisfied about our performance,” said the Frenchman. “After the storm we started in the wet as everybody but since the first laps I was very comfortable with the bike. Once the surface started to dry up I came out on soft tyre but I was very careful at the beginning; when my lap times became more consistent we decided to continue on soft tyres. I made a 23-lap run [Sunday's race is 30 laps] with a good pace at the end on used tyres so I am pretty confident for tomorrow's qualifying. Basically we found the correct overall package and we just have to fine-tune the chassis and the suspensions”.
de Angelis, a six-time podium finisher in the smaller classes at the tight and twisty Sachsenring, was only 0.149sec slower than de Puniet on his Gresini machine, keeping the top satellite rider in the world championship standings - Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards - behind him in sixth.
“I waited until I saw a few other riders on slicks before changing because we didn't want to risk anything and when we went back out I was able to hold my position near the top,” said de Angelis. “We had a bit of a problem with the bike not turning in the tight corners, which is the thing you really need here, but we improved that. Now the main issue is the rear spinning up and we need to sort that because every tenth you lose around this circuit is crucial.
“I was the fastest in T3, the same as last year I think. I have always said my strong point as a rider is in fast corners and this is one of the fastest and most technical sections on the calendar. It is helping me make up some time but to be honest we still don't have the package I need to be fast and consistent around the rest of the circuit.”
de Angelis was a joint career-best fourth in the wet 2008 German Grand Prix.