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Stoner makes strong start to France weekend

Stoner makes strong start to France weekend

Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda) set the early pace for the Monster Energy Grand Prix de France in the first practice session of the weekend, by breaking the circuit record lap. It was a Repsol Honda top three, with Dani Pedrosa second and Andrea Dovizioso in third.

The race lap circuit record of 1’34.215, set by Valentino Rossi in 2008 was broken by the Australian, with a lap time of 1’34.133 in the opening session of the weekend. Stoner set the lightning pace from early on in the morning practice and set a succession of consistently quick times throughout the 45 minute session. The Repsol Honda rider finished third in Portugal and also sits third in the standings.

Temperatures of 14 degrees made it a chilly start to proceedings but the sun was shining to make for good conditions to the start the weekend at Le Mans. Pedrosa, race winner from Round 3, now only four points behind Lorenzo in the fight for the title, was 0.298s off Stoner’s quickest lap and will be eager to match his success from Portugal.

Dovizioso was third fastest behind his team-mates but over half a second off the fastest time. The Italian had a positive result in Estoril when he claimed fourth place after a race-long battle with Valentino Rossi. Marco Simoncelli (San Carlo Honda Gresini Team) who has crashed out of the last two races after strong showings in practice and qualifying, made it four Hondas in the top four. Simoncelli was quickest after the official test which took place in Portugal and will be looking to score points after his two non-finishes.

Reigning MotoGP World Champion Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) who was beaten to victory by his compatriot Pedrosa in the closing stages of the previous race, was fifth fastest in FP1, just over a second off the pace. The highest placed Ducati was that of Valentino Rossi (Ducati Team) in sixth place, who was pipped for fourth place on the line by fellow Italian Dovizioso in Portgual.

Flying the home flag this weekend is Randy de Puniet (Pramac Racing), who was seventh fastest in the session. The Frenchman, who finished tenth at Estoril after an operation to remove a metal pin from his knee, stated on Thursday that he is now in much better physical condition to challenge at Round 4.

Completing the top ten were second Ducati Team rider Nicky Hayden in eighth, Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) in ninth and Ben Spies (Yamaha Factory Racing) in tenth. The British rider finished eighth at the previous round and was fourth in the test in Portugal, in his rookie season whilst Spies is aiming for better luck after a DNF at the previous round.

Álvaro Bautista (Rizla Suzuki) who is still recovering from his broken femur from the opening round of the season and sat out the official test on the Monday following the Estoril race was 14th fastest, with Héctor Barberá (Mapfre Aspar Team) in 16th. The Spaniard returned to action after damaging a vertebrae in a first lap crash in Portugal and therefore missed the test after that race.


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