MotoGP world championship leader Casey Stoner continued his domination of the 2007 season to set the fastest time in this morning’s first free practice session in Assen.
In cool and blustery conditions, Stoner’s best time of 1.38.323 set with over half of the session remaining was good enough to beat closest title Valentino Rossi into second place by just 0.046s.
Stoner, who goes into Saturday’s race holding a commanding 26-point lead over Yamaha rival Rossi, was quick out of the blocks as normal this morning and went to the top timesheets after just five minutes with a 1.43.473 on only his second lap.
Four minutes later he posted a 1.40.154 to move a massive 0.649s clear of John Hopkins on the Rizla Suzuki. Hopkins was the first rider to duck under the 1.40 barrier when he clocked a 1.39.780 on his sixth lap that moved him just 0.190s clear of Brazilian veteran Alex Barros.
Fourteen minutes had elapsed when Stoner reclaimed top spot with a 1.39.136 that shot him a massive 0.587s ahead of Kawasaki’s Randy de Puniet.
Casey Stoner’s best lap of 1.38.323 came after just 28 minutes and at the time it moved him 0.821s clear of disgruntled factory Honda rider Dani Pedrosa, who after his disastrous eighth place in last weekend’s British MotoGP effectively conceded his world title hopes were over.
Pedrosa eventually finished sixth fastest after an off-track excursion with 23 minutes of the session completed.
Nobody was able to better Casey Stoner’s lap, which came on the Aussie’s 15th of a 23-lap stint. Rossi got closest with a 1.38.369 after he’d first moved into second position with a 1.39.417 after 16 minutes.
That was 0.281s behind Casey Stoner at the time. Reigning world champion Nicky Hayden (Honda) took second from Rossi with 27 minutes still remaining when the American logged a 1.39.031 to get to within 0.533s off Stoner.
Valentino Rossi retaliated to take second place back with 22 minutes remaining with a 1.38.788 that was still 0.465s away from the impressive Casey Stoner.
Rossi’s next lap saw him post a 1.38.649 that reduced the deficit to Stoner to just 0.326s and his last lap saw him narrowly miss out on top spot.
Hayden’s resurgence continued as he clocked the third fastest time with a best of 1.38.507. The 2006 Assen GP winner edged out compatriot Colin Edwards (Yamaha) and the impressive Alex Hofmann (Ducati).
Nicky Hayden’s Assen success a year ago remains his only victory outside of his home race in Laguna Seca.
Spaniard Toni Elias broke his left femur in this morning's session when he lost the front of his Gresini Honda with 27 minutes remaining. He'd early run off track too.
MotoGP free practice results:
1 Casey STONER AUS DUCATI 1'38.323
2 Valentino ROSSI ITA YAMAHA 1'38.369
3 Nicky HAYDEN USA HONDA 1'38.507
4 Colin EDWARDS USA YAMAHA 1'38.739
5 Alex HOFMANN GER DUCATI 1'38.894
6 Dani PEDROSA SPA HONDA 1'39.045
7 Randy DE PUNIET FRA KAWASAKI 1'39.139
8 Alex BARROS BRA DUCATI 1'39.145
9 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA DUCATI 1'39.327
10 John HOPKINS USA SUZUKI 1'39.483
11 Marco MELANDRI ITA HONDA 1'39.523
12 Toni ELIAS SPA HONDA 1'39.716
13 Chris VERMEULEN AUS SUZUKI 1'39.930
14 Carlos CHECA SPA HONDA 1'40.165
15 Makoto TAMADA JPN YAMAHA 1'40.182
16 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA YAMAHA 1'40.324
17 Anthony WEST AUS KAWASAKI 1'40.330
18 Shinya NAKANO JPN HONDA 1'41.450
19 Kurtis ROBERTS USA KR212V 1'43.604