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Champion Stoner starts 2008 action in style

Champion Stoner starts 2008 action in style

Reigning MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner began his title defence as he means to continue in the first 800cc practice session of the year, leading the way with a time of 1'55.870 onboard his Ducati Desmosedici GP8.

Reigning MotoGP World Champion Casey Stoner began his title defence as he means to continue in the first 800cc practice session of the year, leading the way with a time of 1'55.870 onboard his Ducati Desmosedici GP8.

Stoner set his time –half a second off his previous best from last week's Official Test- towards the end of a session in which he was challenged by the previous fastest rider under the Losail lights, Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo.

Spanish rookie Lorenzo may be undertaking his first MotoGP race this Sunday, but on current form looks to be capable of pushing to earn a trio of victories in all three World Championship categories by adding an 800cc win at Qatar to his tally. The 20 year-old was just 0.054s off Stoner's early marker for the 18 MotoGP riders.

Customarily closely following his longstanding rival, fellow debutant Andrea Dovizioso was the third quickest rider of the opening session a further three tenths of a second behind the MotoGP title holder. The Italian, riding for JiR Team Scot on a satellite Honda, also had a small off en-route to earning a time faster than last year's third and second placed riders in the overall classification, Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa.

Also experiencing the combination of respectable times and a slide off track was LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet, who took advantage of the long run-off area to immediately rejoin the action. More spectacular was the fall suffered by newcomer James Toseland, who nonetheless dusted himself off quickly after a brief scare.

Toseland was four tenths of a second down on Tech3 Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards in eighth place, both placing ahead of 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden and Kawasaki's walking wounded rider John Hopkins.

Interestingly, all seven of Michelin's MotoGP contingent occupied places in the top ten, with only Stoner and Rossi preventing a clean sweep for the French manufacturer over rivals Bridgestone. Whether this form carries over into later practice sessions and tomorrow's qualifying run will be a point of much attention as the tyre war rages on in 2008.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2008, Commercialbank GRAND PRIX OF QATAR, FP1

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