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Stoner lends familiar air to historic MotoGP opening night in Qatar

Stoner lends familiar air to historic MotoGP opening night in Qatar

The 2008 MotoGP World Championship season burst into life this evening at the Losail International Circuit, with the first practice sessions for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar opening proceedings at the first ever night Grand Prix weekend.

The 2008 MotoGP World Championship season burst into life this evening at the Losail International Circuit, with the first practice sessions for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar opening proceedings at the first ever night Grand Prix weekend.

Whilst the setting may have been markedly different with the illumination of the Musco lighting project, one thing remained ominously familiar for the MotoGP riders: Reigning World Champion Casey Stoner was the man leading the way. The Australian set the fastest time of the early evening, which he then followed up by doing the same in the second free practice session.

The Ducati Marlboro rider's time of 1'55.442 onboard the Desmosedici GP8 was particularly striking when put in comparison with other riders using Italian machinery and Bridgestone tyres. Neither team-mate Marco Melandri or the Ducati satellite duo of Toni Elias & Sylvain Guintoli could finish higher than 14th, whilst Stoner was also the only Bridgestone rider in the top six on a night where Michelin showed some fine form.

The quickest rider in the Official Test at Losail last week, MotoGP rookie Jorge Lorenzo confirmed that his eye-opening performance under the Losail floodlights was more than just beginner's luck, with a series of hot laps of which the fastest was just 0.011 slower than Stoner's time.

Another debutant in the premier class, Tech 3 Yamaha's James Toseland also built upon an impressive testing performance at a track where he holds previous victories in superbike competition. He was the third classified rider after the first two sessions, despite an early crash from which he emerged unscathed.

Fellow Yamaha satellite rider and MotoGP veteran Colin Edwards was fourth fastest, sandwiched between his new team-mate and two more rookies in the form of JiR Team Scot's Andrea Dovizioso and San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alex de Angelis.

Randy de Puniet, Valentino Rossi, Chris Vermeulen and Dani Pedrosa completed the top ten, with Rossi and Pedrosa creating one of the talking points of the evening. The Spaniard collided with the Fiat Yamaha rider when trailing him into a corner, hitting the back of the five-time MotoGP World Champion's M1 when the Italian had eased off the throttle. Both riders were uninjured in the incident, and Rossi was even able to continue his lap unaffected by the impact.

The only other crash of the session came from Kawasaki's Anthony West, who was propelled from his Ninja ZX-RR when negotiating a corner towards the end of the session, whilst there was an off-track excursion for 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden. The American has both the 2007 and 2008 versions of the Repsol Honda RC212V at his disposal for the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar, but was still left outside the top ten in a frustrating day for the ‘Kentucky Kid'.

Temperatures at Losail experienced a sharp drop between the opening 125cc session and the concluding 250cc qualifying outing, reduced some 15 degrees Celsius by the time the lights were turned off for the conclusion of night one in Qatar.

Tags:
MotoGP, 2008, Commercialbank GRAND PRIX OF QATAR, FP2

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