British MotoGP: Stoner fastest in wet start to Donington MotoGP

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MotoGP world championship leader Casey Stoner clocked the fastest time on a soaked Donington Park circuit this morning, as title rival Valentino Rossi was the highest profile victim of the appalling conditions.

Stoner’s best time of 1.43.749 clocked with two minutes remaining was good enough to secure top spot despite a late surge from reigning world champion Nicky Hayden.

Stoner’s best on his 17th of 18 laps completed under grey and gloomy skies was just 0.032s quicker than Repsol Honda rider Hayden, who clocked his best of 1.43.781 on his last lap of a 26-lap stint.

The Australian’s closest title rival Rossi though was only seventh fastest this morning after he crashed his Fiat Yamaha YZR-M1 at the Coppice corner just nine minutes into the session.

Rossi’s best of 1.45.825 left him 2.076 adrift of Stoner after he’d escaped injury in the early spill.
 
Stoner first climbed to the top of the timesheets with 23 minutes of the hour-long session remaining with a 1.46.440 that moved him 0.285s clear of compatriot Chris Vermeulen who had just moved into second with a lap of 1.46.725.

Vermeulen, who won the French GP in Le Mans earlier this season in monsoon conditions, then climbed to the top of the leaderboard with a 1.45.868 that moved him 0.572s clear of Stoner.

But a minute later and Stoner, who defends a 14-point lead over Rossi going into Sunday’s 30-lap race, hit back straightaway with a best of 1.45.793 to edge 0.075s ahead of Vermeulen.

Stoner had slipped off top spot thanks to another impressive display from French factory Kawasaki rider Randy de Puniet before his late burst thrust him back to the top.

With Hayden claiming second late on for a much-needed morale boost after his struggles on the new factory RC212V, de Puniet was relegated to third place.

De Puniet made the early running and after 20 minutes went to the top of the timesheets with a lap of 1.48.710 on his ninth lap.

He then went faster on his next lap to register a 1.47.770, which saw him over a second clear of the field.

At that time American factory Suzuki rider John Hopkins was second, but trailing de Puniet by 1.063s.

The French rider was bumped down the field before reclaiming top spot with 14 minutes remaining when he clocked a 1.45.596 to move 0.197s clear of Stoner.

He then posted a 1.45.453 on his next lap to edge out 0.340s clear of Stoner.

The former 250 rider then held a massive advantage of 1.245s when he logged a 1.44.375 before eventually finishing third quickest, 0.553s adrift of Stoner.

Rain specialist Vermeulen was fourth fastest overall with a best of 1.45.064.

That came after he was the first crasher of the session when he tumbled off his Rizla Suzuki GSV-R on the exit of Goddards with barely three minutes on the clock.

Boosted by his recent fourth place finish in the rain-soaked French GP in Le Mans, Pedrosa set the early pace despite on off-track excursion at the tricky Coppice double apex right-hander.

He clocked a 1.50.669 on only his third lap and just before the halfway stage he posted a 1.47.748 on his 11th lap to move just 0.022s ahead of de Puniet.

His best of 1.45.073 was good enough for fifth place, ahead of Brazilian veteran Alex Barros in sixth.

Barros had been as high as fourth with 12 minutes remaining.

New Kawasaki recruit and wet weather expert Anthony West was eighth quickest, finishing 2.173s behind Stoner with a best time of 1.45.922 that he clocked on his 24th lap.

He looked like springing a major surprise on his first competitive outing on board the factory ZX-RR when he jumped to the top of the timesheets on only his seventh lap.

A 1.48.927 moved him 0.351s clear of Pedrosa. He was back on top again with 25 minutes of the session elapsed with a 1.46.975 that moved him 0.751s clear of Stoner.

LCR Honda rider Carlos Checa was the other crasher this morning when he baled out in a treacherous opening few minutes.

STANDINGS

1. Stoner  1.43.749
2. Hayden
3. De Puniet
4. Vermeulen
5. Pedrosa
6. Barros
7. Rossi
8. West
9. Hopkins
10. Hoffman
11. Elias
12. Checa
13. Nakano
14. Edwards
15. Capirossi
16. Kurtis Roberts
17. Melandri
18. Guintoli
19. Tamada


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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt