With Nicky Hayden out of action following surgery on an injured thumb, and Valentino Rossi's Repsol Honda replacement still to be named, it was left to 2003 runner-up Sete Gibernau to lead the Honda challenge on day one of testing at Valencia.

Due to poor morning weather, serious laps only began after 2.00pm, after which the Telefonica Movistar rider turned 40 laps, with a best time of 1min 33.9secs on his 2003 spec machine.

That time - although some 0.5secs slower than Rossi's fastest lap from the November GP - put Sete fastest of all today, beating not only his three fellow Honda riders but also the factory Ducatis' of Troy Bayliss and Loris Capirossi (see seperate story).

"It started not so good with the weather, but it turned out to be a positive day," reflected the Catalan. "More than anything, we needed to get used to the bike again after a month doing not so much. We are testing some new stuff trying to develop the direction of what we need for next year to try to challenge again for the championship.

"Today we wanted to make a reset of everything, myself, the team, the bike, and now we have a good basis for tomorrow to start to test," he explained. "It's the balance that we're trying to get right. It's a little bit of everything. We have a meeting with Honda and Michelin to see what they need for me tomorrow and try to make a plan."

Bayliss was the next fastest rider, 0.3secs adrift of the #15, then came Max Biaggi. The Roman clocked less laps than the top two (25) but was just a few tenths shy oif Bayliss, while testing engine parts.

"We got just a normal set-up for day one and tomorrow and Friday is going to be two more days, full days, hopefully, we can test in good weather," said Max. "We have a new engine solution. That's what we're trying to see. I have not so many laps that I used just two rear tyres.

"Right now we have to adjust to the new engine solution. It's something that we have to adjust with time. Tomorrow we start for sure in better condition and then I can say more details," he added mysteriously. "The track was so cold that it's very easy to make a mistake if you go too hard. I was trying to be conservative and at the same time try to analyse and take data, speak with the mechanics, try to make it better."

The veteran Italian is expected to help test the newest Michelin rubber tomorrow once the track has warmed and he is up to speed.

Fourth fastest was the newest member of the Honda family, Colin Edwards, finished his first full day of testing the Telefonica MoviStar Honda with a best effort of 1min 34.7secs - quicker than Capirossi, but 0.8secs slower than Gibernau.

Edwards had ridden the Honda RC211V at Catalunya just after the season-ending Valencia GP, but that was mostly to set the handlebars and foot pegs.

"I was working on a lot of stuff. All of these bikes have limits: You just have to learn how to decipher the code," said 'The Tornado'. "One of them taps you on the left shoulder, one of them taps you on the right. You have to learn that code. Find the limits. Right now I have somewhat of an idea, but not enough to go out there and try to bust a lap.

"We just went out and did fairly consistent high 34's and I was happy with that. I didn't feel I was anywhere near the limit. Now we're there. Just push a little and find out where it is. The track was pretty bad this morning. We had no idea if the tyre was going to stick or if it wasn't going to stick. I'm trying to sweat a few beers out first before we get out there!" joked Edwards, who has recently been 'hanging out' with Friends star - and bike enthusiast - Matt Le Blanc.

The quick-witted Texan is now on his third different machine in three years, having spent his inaugural MotoGP season on a three-cylinder, having won the 2002 World Superbike Championship on a Castrol Honda VTR1000.

Rounding out the Honda riders was Makoto Tamada, who worked on a new engine and exhaust combination on the Pramac Honda RC-211V. The Japanese rider turned 28 laps while continuing to make small adjustments to the machine, while seeking a direction for the final two days of the test.

"Today we tried a new machine. We put a new engine in and had to learn how the engine works and what is different. Today was just a test. It's very noisy because it's a completely different exhaust, so I have to learn that. We still have to find the best settings. I didn't try to do a fast time because I thought it was best to try to learn," said the Japanese Bridgestone rider.

Valencia test - leading times, day one:

1. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar Honda 1min 33.9secs
2. Troy Bayliss AUS Ducati Marlboro 1min 34.2secs
3. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Pramac Honda Pons 1min 34.4secs
4. Colin Edwards USA Telefonica Movistar Honda 1min 34.7secs
5. Loris Capirossi ITA Ducati Marlboro 1min 34.8secs
6. Makoto Tamada JPN Camel Pramac Honda Pons 1min 35.4secs

Comparative lap times - 2003 Valencia Grand Prix: Pole Position: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 1min 32.478secsFastest Lap: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 1min 33.317secs

 

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