The first day of practice for the Czech Republic Grand Prix started badly for world champion Valentino Rossi - but ended in typical brilliance, at Brno this afternoon.

The Gauloises Yamaha star crashed early in the morning session after clipping the rear of Troy Bayliss's Camel Honda going into the final chicane. Despite the high-speed fall, the Italian hero was unhurt and completed the session on his second machine.

Then, in the afternoon, Rossi had slipped back to eighth with just two-minutes remaining, before shooting to the top on his very last lap of the hour - The Doctor preventing a Loris Capirossi Friday sweep by outpacing the Ducati rider by just 0.088secs.

"Today was a strange day because we all came back from the holidays and it felt like everybody was still in the beach rhythm!" began Rossi. "The crash this morning was not the perfect way to start. Troy was pushing hard but he suddenly decided to come in to the pit and braked in the middle of the corner.

"I was lucky because my front brake made contact and I went down at 149km/h but I am not hurt. I think we need to modify the pit entry for next season because at the moment it is dangerous; I will talk about it with the Safety Commission.

"Anyway, my mechanics did a great job to virtually rebuild the whole bike in just three hours and this afternoon I was able to do a lot of tyre tests. In the end we went back to the first tyre and I was able to go fastest. Tomorrow we need to work on the suspension to find more grip but so far I am quite happy," he concluded.

It may appear that the morning accident meant frantic work for Rossi's team, but crew chief Jerry Burgess claimed most of the work would have been done anyway.

"The guys did a good job to repair the damage to Valentino's bike, although they strip it down after every session anyway so it doesn't make much of a difference whether they put the same parts back on or fetch new ones!" he explained.

"The track is quite dirty and there's not much grip so we have some work to do to try and adjust the bike. It's early days yet, but the setting we've found so far is quite good and, as always, we'll be looking to improve on it tomorrow," added MotoGP's most successful crew chief.

With a 120-point championship lead over Marco Melandri coming into the event, Rossi now needs just two more victories from the remaining seven rounds - regardless of what his rivals do - to clinch the title for the fifth successive season.



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