Stoner was much faster than his rivals at the first outing at Laguna Seca

Stoner was much faster than his rivals at the first outing at Laguna Seca

 

Casey Stoner fastest at cold Laguna Seca

By Matthew Birt -

MotoGP

 18 July 2008 19:49

The California weather might have had an unfamiliar feel to it this morning, but the MotoGP timesheets certainly didn’t as in-form Casey Stoner dominated opening free practice at Laguna Seca.

This morning’s session kicked off under grey clouds and mist as temperatures plummeted to 11 degrees, but Aussie Stoner turned up the heat on his rivals with another commanding performance.

Stoner, who has fought his way back into world title contention with three straight victories, could not have made a better start to his bid for a second successive win at Laguna Seca,
Stoner’s stunning best lap of 1.21.915 was a massive 0.764s clear of title rival Valentino Rossi and 0.3s under his 2007 pole position best time!

Such was his dominance that some riders in the top ten were nearly two seconds adrift of the 22-year-old, who has been unstoppable since Ducati rolled out a revised engine management system for last month’s British GP at Donington Park.

After topping the timesheets early on, Stoner had to wait until the 17th minute to exert his advantage when a lap of 1.24.127 moved him 0.212s clear of Laguna novice Andrea Dovizioso.

He was never knocked off top spot after that point but just gradually slashed his lap times until he moved over a second clear of the field with times that smashed his own lap record of 1.22.452.

Only Fiat Yamaha rider Rossi lapped within a second of the Ducati rider as a best lap of 1.22.679 in the final seconds got the Italian to within 0.9s.

It was an opening session largely dominated by Bridgestone, with home favourite and double Laguna winner Nicky Hayden the best Michelin rider down in sixth. Hayden’s best time of 1.23.469 was a massive 1.554s off the pace.

Colin Edwards – Michelin’s other big American hope – also struggled as he ended down in ninth with a best time of 1.23.760 that was just over 1.8s off Stoner’s blistering pace.

Japanese rider Shinya Nakano took third place with a best of 1.22.953 and he was the last of the riders to break into the 1.22 bracket.

Last year’s runner-up Chris Vermeulen was fourth fastest, just ahead of under pressure Italian Marco Melandri in fifth, who could be sacked by Ducati with another poor performance in Sunday’s 32-lap race.

Wild card Ben Spies, who led in the early stages of the session, slipped back down to 11th overall after he walked away relatively unscathed from a massive crash with just over 20 minutes remaining. He finished one place ahead of fellow wild card Jamie Hacking, who was 12th standing in for injured John Hopkins on the factory Kawasaki. He beat regular Kawasaki rider Anthony West, who ran off track at the Corkscrew earlier in the session.

It was a tough opening session for British rider James Toseland as he slumped to a lowly 18th. The Tech 3 Yamaha rider clocked a best time of 1.24.736 to finish a massive 2.821s behind Stoner. Only injured Spaniard Dani Pedrosa was slower as the Repsol Honda rider finished last as he struggled with the left hand and right ankle injuries he suffered in a massive crash just five days ago at the German GP.