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Stoner on the pace as Qatar weekend and 2009 season commence

Stoner on the pace as Qatar weekend and 2009 season commence

The 2007 World Champion Casey Stoner started the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar weekend and the new season ahead of his rivals, in the first MotoGP free practice session of the year.

As the first day of action at the opening round of the season concluded under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit on Friday evening the winner of the last two MotoGP races at the Qatari track, Casey Stoner, was the paceman again onboard his superb Desmosedici GP9.

Despite running off track at one stage, Stoner was in charge from early in the session with his 1’57.053 best time coming on the 12th of his 17 laps and keeping him 0.386s ahead of second fastest rider Valentino Rossi. Australian Ducati Marlboro rider Stoner was the form rider of the 2009 preseason and he will take some beating this weekend in Qatar.

World Champion Rossi was once more the closest man to his young rival Stoner, the Italian registering his quickest time (1’57.439) towards the end of the session. A race winner previously at the desert circuit, the legendary Fiat Yamaha rider will look to start his title defence with another victory on Sunday.

In the first ever Grand Prix free practice session in the single tyre supplier era, a rider who did not use Bridgestone tyres last year, Monster Yamaha Tech3’s Colin Edwards, was third fastest, courtesy of a best time right at the end of the 45-minute practice, albeit 0.782s off Stoner’s pace.

Another rider new to Bridgestone rubber this year, Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo surged up the timesheets with his own last gasp hot lap to finish fourth. The young Spaniard undertaking his second season in the MotoGP class will aim to repeat his 2008 Qatar pole position in qualifying on Saturday night.

Like Lorenzo, San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alex de Angelis embarks on his second MotoGP campaign this year and he started the weekend well on his satellite RC212V, in fifth place as the fastest Honda rider.

Veteran Italian Loris Capirossi, starting his 20th season in the World Championship placed sixth on the timesheet on the improved and updated Rizla Suzuki GSV-R, nearly a second and a half behind former team-mate Stoner.

An impressive effort from MotoGP rookie Mika Kallio, meanwhile saw him lap seventh quickest as he continued his adaptation to premier class riding with his new team Pramac Racing.

Andrea Dovizioso gets his big break with Repsol Honda this season and he started his first GP weekend on factory machinery in eighth place overall.

Next on the timesheets were Marco Melandri, on the Ninja ZX-RR in the new Hayate Racing team set-up, and LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet.

James Toseland (Tech 3 Yamaha) just missed on the top ten as he continued his recovery from some big preseason crashes, whilst 2006 World Champion Nicky Hayden was down in thirteenth place as he commenced his first race weekend with Ducati Marlboro.

Dani Pedrosa was back on track, riding through the pain barrier with his knee and wrist injuries, returning to action after missing the Jerez Official Test as a result of a heavy crash in testing at Losail just over a month ago. The Repsol Honda rider lapped 4.382s off the pace, completing 17 important laps, but ending the session last on the timesheet.


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