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Rossi makes clear his plans in first Le Mans practice

Rossi makes clear his plans in first Le Mans practice

Quickest in the first premier class session of the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France weekend, the World Champion edged ahead of Casey Stoner and his Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo.

Valentino Rossi struck the first psychological blow of the Le Mans weekend as he set the fastest time of the hour-long FP1 on Friday afternoon, taking his Yamaha YZR-M1 prototype round in a best time of 1’34.402 on his final turn of the session.

In blazing sunshine and at 28ºC, with a track temperature measuring 44ºC, the Fiat Yamaha rider was 0.106s faster than Ducati Marlboro rival Casey Stoner, whom he beat to top the timesheet right at the end. Current Championship leader and last year’s race winner Jorge Lorenzo was third quickest, at a further three-hundredths off Stoner.

Andrea Dovizioso was the fastest Honda of the session as the Italian marked the fourth best lap on his factory RC212V, with his time of 1’34.625 a fraction under four-tenths better than his Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who completed the top five in the session and was the last rider under 1’35”.

Colin Edwards and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro) were sixth and seventh respectively, with Edwards’ Monster Yamaha Tech3 team-mate Ben Spies impressing on his first ride of the French circuit. The American was the final rider to get within a second of Rossi’s time as he showed an immediate comfort on the asphalt of the technically challenging Le Mans layout.

Aleix Espargaró continues to show advances on the Ducati of Pramac Racing and he set the ninth best time, with Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) also putting in a quick final lap to get inside the top ten.

Riding through the barrier was Álvaro Bautista, and the Rizla Suzuki man rode without the aid of painkillers as he completed 19 laps a week to the day after an operation on a broken collarbone. The Spaniard was just over three seconds off the pace of Rossi.

The second practice session for the MotoGP class is scheduled to start at 9.55am local time on Saturday morning.


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