Valentino Rossi left it late but the Italian denied MotoGP world championship leader Casey Stoner top spot at the end of free practice for tomorrow’s Dutch MotoGP.
The Italian posted a 1.37.537 on his last lap to bump Casey Stoner into second place after the Aussie had looked certain to continue his domination in Holland.
Valentino Rossi’s (Yamaha) best beat Casey Stoner by 0.043secs to claim the overall best practice time at the end of three sessions after the Fiat Yamaha rider had finished yesterday with the fourth best time.
Rossi’s best this morning slashed 0.6secs off his best time from yesterday as he jumped from third to first with an impressive last lap. He did trail Stoner by 0.338secs in third place before his best lap.
World championship leader Casey Stoner (Ducati), who was fastest in both sessions yesterday, continued his impressive run of form this morning when he clocked a 1:37.580.
That time beat impressive Nicky Hayden (Honda), who has made a sudden return to prominence after a torrid 2007, by 0.236s for second spot.
Casey Stoner, who leads Valentino Rossi by 26-points after eight rounds, is bidding to become the first rider to win three successive races for a European manufacturer in 33 years in tomorrow’s 26-lap race.
And victory tomorrow will make him the first rider other than Valentino Rossi to win three premier class races in a row since Alex Criville’s world championship-winning campaign back in 1999.
He first hit the top of the timesheets after 13 minutes with a lap of 1.37.970 that moved him a massive 0.694s clear of Valentino Rossi.
On his next lap he posted a 1.37.798 to go a massive 0.838secs clear of factory Kawasaki rider Randy de Puniet, who ended the session ninth.
Randy de Puniet was fifth on overall times as he was one of six riders who couldn’t go faster this morning than they managed yesterday. But Casey Stoner has dominated practice even though like most of the MotoGP field he isn’t a big fan of the heavily revised Assen circuit.
“I still don’t like it. It’s hard because you ride on it and imagine riding off into the old first corner and going through the fast sweeping corners, said the 21-year-old.
“It’s just long and boring and really not fun. The last part of the circuit still has a little bit of the old style to it but it has lost all the charm and it’s feeling. It’s disappointing but I’m doing the best job I can and not letting any circuit affect me,” added Stoner who also said the circuit is also quite bumpy in places.
“It’s a lot bumpier. They always used to race cars on the old track. It was always a bit bumpy with a few skips but it pretty much stayed the same.
And Casey Stoner added: “But these new surfaces, every time you get on the track they disintegrate more and get rougher. There’s not as much grip or feeling and I don’t know what anybody is doing to these circuits.”
Revitalised reigning world champion Nicky Hayden was third fastest with a best lap of 1.37.816 as a new chassis he first ran in the recent British MotoGP continued in helping his dramatic reversal in fortunes.
The American has yet to register a top six finish in the defence of his MotoGP crown but looks a serious podium threat tomorrow on a track where he claimed his solitary premier class outside of Laguna Seca in 2006.
Hayden was third quickest yesterday and he claimed third again this morning with his best lap coming just 20 minutes in that closed the gap to Stoner to just 0.018secs.
Sixteen minutes later though Stoner posted his best time to leave Hayden just over 0.2secs adrift.
Fourth fastest was Rossi’s factory Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards while one of the big shocks was the continuing poor form of Marco Melandri.
The Italian is completely at odds with his Gresini Honda RC212V and he was only 16th fastest on combined times.
MotoGP free practice three results:
1 Valentino ROSSI ITA YAMAHA 1'37.537
2 Casey STONER AUS DUCATI 1'37.580
3 Nicky HAYDEN USA HONDA 1'37.816
4 Colin EDWARDS USA YAMAHA 1'38.020
5 John HOPKINS USA SUZUKI 1'38.185
6 Makoto TAMADA JPN YAMAHA 1'38.192
7 Alex BARROS BRA DUCATI 1'38.238
8 Dani PEDROSA SPA HONDA 1'38.299
9 Randy DE PUNIET FRA KAWASAKI 1'38.474
10 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA DUCATI 1'38.485
11 Alex HOFMANN GER DUCATI 1'38.723
12 Carlos CHECA SPA HONDA 1'38.752
13 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA YAMAHA 1'38.768
14 Shinya NAKANO JPN HONDA 1'38.790
15 Chris VERMEULEN AUS SUZUKI 1'38.900
16 Anthony WEST AUS KAWASAKI 1'39.562
17 Marco MELANDRI ITA HONDA 1'39.630
18 Kurtis ROBERTS USA KR212V 1'40.622