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Stoner on the pace as Qatar gets 2010 underway

Stoner on the pace as Qatar gets 2010 underway

Ducati Marlboro rider Casey Stoner started the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar weekend as the leading MotoGP rider, setting the fastest time of the first free practice session.

The first day of action at the opening round of the 2010 season concluded on Friday evening with Casey Stoner the quickest MotoGP rider under the floodlights of the Losail International Circuit. The Australian is seeking his fourth successive win at the track this weekend, as he bids to get his title challenge off to a winning start by carrying over his form from the final pre-season Test.

Stoner’s time of 1’55.500 on board his new Desmosedici GP10, resplendent with its new big bang engine, placed him just over half a second ahead of the rest of the 17-strong field, as he displayed his strength at the desert track and ensured he was the only man to get under 1’56” barrier. Stoner set his time on the ninth of 17 laps, the fewest completed of all the riders.

Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha), who admitted prior to the weekend that he may not be at full fitness as he continues to recover from a hand injury, showed no signs of hesitance as he set the second best time of the hour-long session. The Spaniard’s best lap of 1’56.026 came right at the end of the practice, and just before he had a fall which did not appear to cause him any problems.

His team-mate, reigning World Champion Valentino Rossi, was third on the timesheet on board his factory M1 prototype. The Italian, who will aim to get his title defence off to a winning start, timed in at just two-thousandths of a second off his colleague Lorenzo.

Andrea Dovizioso of the Repsol Honda team took his factory RC212V round in the fourth best time. The Italian, who finished last year’s race in fourth place, was just over a second off Stoner’s pace with a time of 1’56.698, and it was Stoner’s team-mate Nicky Hayden who made the fifth spot at just under a tenth of a second behind.

The highest-placed rookie was Ben Spies (Monster Yamaha Tech3) as he showed further signs of taking to the premier class well in sixth spot, with fellow newcomer Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) on the GSV-R the final rider under 1’57”.

Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), Mika Kallio (Pramac Racing) and Héctor Barberá (Páginas Amarillas Aspar) were all inside the top ten, with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) 11th. The 2009 third-placed Championship rider continues to struggle on his factory bike, and was over a second-and-a-half off Stoner’s pace as he lapped at 1’57.133.

Colin Edwards (Monster Yamaha Tech3) followed, and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) was 13th. The veteran Italian had a crash with 20 minutes of the session to go, but returned to the track to set his best time, ahead of Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team), Aleix Espargaró (Pramac Racing), Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) and Hiroshi Aoyama (Interwetten Honda MotoGP).


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