Ducati Marlboro rider, Casey Stoner, stamped his authority on the opening free practice session tonight in Qatar, finishing at the top of the timesheet and more than 0.5s ahead of his nearest rival, Fiat Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo.
Despite playing down his chances of a fourth consecutive victory during yesterday’s pre-event press conference, Stoner took charge from early in the session, with his fastest time of 1’55.500 coming on the 9th of the 17 laps completed during the hour-long practice.
The winner of the last three MotoGP races in Qatar, all under floodlights, Stoner showed his rivals today that he has every intention of claiming his fourth consecutive victory in Sunday’s 22-lap race.
Jorge Lorenzo pipped his Fiat Yamaha teammate, and reigning World Champion, Valentino Rossi by just 0.002s to take second place on the timesheet with his final flying lap, but then crashed uninjured just as the session came to a close.
Andrea Dovizioso overcame the problems he has had with the Repsol Honda during pre-season testing, to finish the session in fourth place, just 0.095 ahead of Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden.
Ben Spies, making his debut as a full-time MotoGP rider here in Qatar, was an impressive sixth fastest aboard the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 bike, finishing the session just 0.025s behind his fellow countryman and six places ahead of his more experienced teammate, Colin Edwards.
Alvaro Bautista was another rider who impressed on his MotoGP debut, as he took the Rizla Suzuki to seventh place on the timesheet, well ahead of his teammate, Loris Capirossi, who crashed uninjured early on in the session and eventually finished in 13th position.
Randy de Puniet, Mika Kallio and another MotoGP first timer, Hector Barbera on the Paginas Amarillas Aspar Ducati, rounded out the top ten.
Alex De Angelis finished the first ever Moto2 free practice with the fastest time, after demoting 17-year-old Briton, Scott Redding, from the top of the timesheet right at the end of the hour-long session.
Redding was the first to stake his claim for the number one spot, turning in his fastest time of 2’03.834 with just 15 minutes of the session remaining. The Marc VDS rider held on at the top of the timesheet until just five minutes before the end, when De Angelis bettered his time by over half a second on his RSM Team Scot machine.
Reigning 250cc World Champion, Julian Simon, finished third fastest aboard his Mapfre Aspar RSV, just 0.199s ahead of Swiss rider, Dominique Aegerter, who surprised everyone with a near perfect lap in the dying moments of the session. Stefan Bradl was fifth fastest on his Viessman Kiefer Suter MMX, followed closely by Roberto Rolfo, Alex Debon, Karel Abraham and former 125cc World Champion, Gabor Talmacsi.
Alex Baldolini rounded out the top ten, in a field that numbered 41 riders.
Derbi proved that they would be a potent force in this year’s 125cc World Championship, by taking the four top spots on the timesheet during this evening’s opening free practice session in Qatar.
Pol Espargaro led the charge, recording a time of 2’07.218 to secure the honours as today’s fastest rider. Efren Vasquez was second quickest, just 0.312 adrift of his teammate. Another Derbi, this time in Red Bull colours and ridden by Marc Marquez, claimed third place, with Sandro Cortese and his Avant Mitsubishi Ajo branded bike in fourth position.
Spaniard Nico Terol was the highest placed rider on an Aprilia, taking fifth place for the Bancaja Aspar team ahead of the similarly mounted Randy Krummenacher and Esteve Rabat. Johann Zarco and Tomoyoshi Koyama finished in eight and ninth place respectively, while Danny Webb rounded out the top ten, despite crashing his Andalucia Cajasol Aprilia and taking no part in the final 17 minutes of the session.
Runner-up in last year’s 125cc World Championship, Bradley Smith, finished down in 12th place, having spent much of the session making adjustments to his Bancaja Aspar Aprilia.