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Stoner answers questions with early Laguna Seca record

Stoner answers questions with early Laguna Seca record

Ducati Marlboro´s Casey Stoner rode the fastest ever MotoGP lap of the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in the opening practice session for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix.

The first practice session for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix opened up the MotoGP action at the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on Friday morning, with a few pending questions set to be answered.

Would Casey Stoner be able to dominate in early going, as he did 2007 and at the past three races? That query was answered comprehensively by the reigning MotoGP World Champion with a swift 1´21.915 riposte in the hour-long session, knocking six-hundredths of a second off his own previous fastest ever lap of Laguna Seca.

Valentino Rossi once again headed what he himself has previously referred to as the `second table´ behind the Australian, reducing the gap between himself and his World Championship rival to under eight-tenths of a second in the closing minutes of the run. The Fiat Yamaha man put in the most laps of any rider in the session, crossing the line 33 times at one of only three 2008 World Championship tracks at which he has never won a race.

The surprise of the morning came from San Carlo Honda Gresini´s Shinya Nakano, who was third quickest at the American circuit. The Japanese rider has in recent weeks seen his teammate Alex de Angelis post rapid times in practice, and came out of the garage with intent, en route to a 1´23.908 hot lap.

Rizla Suzuki´s Chris Vermeulen was fourth in the session, ahead of Marco Melandri in a positive hour for the Italian. Both featured on the podium in America last year, and in the first session of the 2008 visit they closed an all-Bridgestone top five.

Twice a winner at Laguna Seca, Nicky Hayden was the fastest rider on Michelin tyres at his home circuit, albeit 1.5 seconds down on Stoner´s Bridgestone-shod Ducati. Andrea Dovizioso, Toni Elias, Colin Edwards and De Angelis rounded off the top ten.

Further pending questions surrounded the condition of Dani Pedrosa after his Sachsenring crash, with the Spaniard indicating the difficult task that lies ahead for him with last place on the timesheet. The performance of Laguna Seca debutants Dovizioso, De Angelis and Jorge Lorenzo, meanwhile, will be keenly observed throughout the weekend. Lorenzo placed thirteenth in the morning session, behind home wildcard riders in the form of Rizla Suzuki´s Ben Spies and Kawasaki´s Jamie Hacking –both on double duty in the AMA action running alongside the Red Bull U.S Grand Prix.

Despite their knowledge of the track, Spies and Hacking both had problems early on. The former crashed after losing the rear of his GSV-R, whilst the latter ran off-track when pushing his Ninja ZX-RR.

Casey Stoner - First in FP1

<`blockquote>`At the start the track surface was a little cool but grip wasn´t bad and after a few laps it was back to a normal level. It took a few laps to get used to the new bumps that have emerged since last season though. In general the track is in good shape and I enjoyed riding because it´s a fun layout and we found a good set-up pretty quickly, using the base from last year. That allowed us to improve as the session went on and I think that if it wasn´t for a bit of traffic at the end I could have gone even faster. For now I´m very satisfied but we have to keep working hard because the temperatures are sure to keep rising in the afternoon and that will have an effect on the track conditions.´


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