After two days of rain interrupted qualifying, dry weather - as had been predicted for race day - duly greeted the MotoGP competitors in this morning's warm-up session for the Czech Grand Prix, which was led by Repsol Honda's Nicky Hayden and Team Suzuki's John Hopkins.

Hopkins had set the pace halfway through the 20-minute session, but frantic progress in the final five-minutes saw the 21-year-old knocked from the top by Telefonica Honda's Colin Edwards, then Suzuki team-mate Kenny Roberts, then pole sitter Sete Gibernau before Hayden grabbed what looked like being a comfortable 0.478secs advantage as the clock read 'zero'.

However Hopkins - fastest in both dry free practice sessions, but just 21st after being left gripless by his Bridgestone tyres in the wet qualifying sessions - underlined his claim of dry podium pace by closing to within 0.082secs of the factory Honda rider as the chequered flag was waved. The question now remains as to how far he can advance up the order in race conditions.

Despite the reduced dry track time this weekend, Hayden's best lap was a full 0.7secs under Valentino Rossi's 2003 lap record and the American, who will start on the third row after qualifying seventh, will be one to watch this afternoon.

Although separated by just 0.1secs this morning, Gibernau (pole) and Kenny Roberts (16th) will also be starting at opposing ends of the grid. Telefonica Honda rider Gibernau had stated he was better prepared for the wet than the dry, but must feel more confident after his morning performance.

However, championship leader Rossi was able to tie Roberts' time this morning and - if the poor qualifying Suzukis are removed - was ahead of all but two RCVs. The Italian may have been the only Yamaha in the top 9, but will surely make the difference once again this afternoon.

Top Ducati was Loris Capirossi - always happier in the dry - who took eighth, while Max Biaggi still looks to be suffering handling problems with his Camel Honda and could manage just eleventh. The Roman will need something of a miracle to reduce Rossi's 22-point title advantage this afternoon.

However, in an added twist, dark clouds are once again gathering as the 125cc field line's up on the grid...

Meanwhile, as expected, the injured Shane Byrne and Kurtis Roberts didn't appear on track this morning and won't be starting this afternoon's race.

Warm-up:

1. Hayden
2. Hopkins
3. Gibernau
4. Kenny Roberts
5. Rossi
6. Edwards
7. Barros
8. Capirossi
9. Tamada
10. Checa
11. Biaggi
12. Abe
13. Melandri
14. Nakano
15. Hofmann
16. Hodgson
17. Bayliss
18. McWilliams
19. Aoki
20. Xaus
21. Lavilla
22. Pitt
23. Fabrizio
24. Ellison

 

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