Valentino Rossi says he felt better than expected during his first MotoGP session since his Mugello injury, as the series champion made his return in Friday practice at the Sachsenring.
The Italian had not competed since his leg-braking accident at the start of June, and had initially not been expected back until Brno next month. But after successful tests on a Yamaha Superbike in recent days, Rossi has been given clearance to contest this weekend's German Grand Prix. He was among the leaders from the outset in practice today, finishing the opening session in seventh, 0.7sec off the pace, having completed 29 laps.
"I am really happy today, especially because I am a lot more agile on the bike than I was in the tests," said Rossi. "I feel good and this track is helping me because a lot of it turns to the left. I am feeling quite confident on the bike and also my shoulder is good and not giving me problems."
He acknowledged that the feeling in his leg had not been perfect, but saw no reason to doubt that he would contest the full weekend.
"Now I have some pain in the leg and ankle but it's not too bad, I was able to do some laps in a row and I was quite fast so things seem OK," he said. "Now we will have to wait until tomorrow morning to see how the leg is and whether it has swelled overnight or developed any problems."
Rossi's team manager Davide Brivio was stunned by his rider's competitiveness after his lay-off.
"Once again Valentino has surprised everyone," said Brivio. "After missing four races and not being completely fit this can be considered a very good session. From a team point of view it was like he had never been away, working on the suspension and searching for the best setup.
"His physical condition isn't too bad, a bit more difficult in the right-hand corners and OK on the left, but overall it is a lot better than we expected. We're very happy and now we'll see where we can get to tomorrow."