Australian MotoGP: Casey Stoner makes perfect start in Phillip Island
Casey Stoner made the perfect start to his reign as new MotoGP world champion by topping the timesheets on the opening day of practice for his home race in Australia.
On a weather-hit opening day at the Phillip Island circuit, Casey Stoner dodged heavy rain showers to set the best time in both free practice sessions as he got a rapturous reception from a large home crowd.
Casey Stoner, who clinched the title last month in Japan, posted the best time in this afternoon’s second session with a lap of 1.31.286 to finish 0.269s clear of Gresini Honda rider and 2006 Australian MotoGP winner Marco Melandri.
The 21-year-old though did suffer a crash late in the second session when he lost control of his factory Ducati at the tight right-hand Honda hairpin.
Chaz Davies was unhurt on the D’Antin Ducati and he was 13th fastest, beating home favourite Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) and Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha) for a morale-boosting start as replacement rider for axed German Alex Hofmann.
Casey Stoner’s tumble was the only minor blip on an otherwise perfect start for the former LCR Honda rider, who had set the best time this morning with a 1.31.132.
That had left him a massive 1.339s clear of factory Kawasaki rider Randy de Puniet. That time was actually the best of the day and 0.423s clear of Marco Melandri, who will partner Stoner next season in the Marlboro Ducati squad.
Casey Stoner was the only rider who didn’t better his time this afternoon after his dominant performance in the opening practice.
Stoner needed just six minutes of the second session to climb to the top of the timesheets when he logged a 1.32.836 to move 0.339s clear of early pacesetter Valentino Rossi.
Rossi closed the gap just a minute later to 0.332s as the Italian finished fourth fastest overall having been third this morning.
Ducati’s Casey Stoner stretched his advantage to a massive 0.804s ahead of Carlos Checa (LCR Honda) after eight minutes when he clocked a 1.32.030. The first heavy rain shower came just three minutes later, but riders were only forced into the pits for six minutes as strong winds that hit Phillip Island all day quickly dried the spectacular circuit.
Casey Stoner’s most impressive form came just after the 20-minute mark when a 1.31.489 moved him 0.710s clear of Randy de Puniet on his eighth lap.
On his next lap he posted a 1.31.314 to jump 0.885 clear of the French rider before he went faster on his third lap with the 1.31.286 that was good enough to set the best time in the session.
A second cloudburst with 15 minutes remaining forced another brief stint in the pits, with Stoner unable to go any quicker.
Marco Melandri posed the biggest threat but his best of 1.31.555 was just outside of Stoner’s best time. The Italian though was much faster this afternoon having been way down in 14th this morning.
Spaniard Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was third overall with a best time of 1.31.802, but that was a massive 0.670s off Casey Stoner’s best on the day.
Valentino Rossi was even further adrift in fourth as the Fiat Yamaha rider ended the day 0.802s off Casey Stoner.
Only Randy de Puniet in fifth was the other rider to lap within the same second of Stoner, with fellow Aussie’s Anthony West (Kawasaki) down in 10th and Chris Vermeulen struggling way down in 14th.
The factory Suzuki rider was a massive 2.813s off compatriot Stoner.
Alex Barros (Pramac Dantin) was also a late crasher in the session, but like Stoner and Davies, he escaped injury.
Free practice one results:
1 Casey STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team DUCATI 1'31.132
2 Randy DE PUNIET FRA Kawasaki Racing Team KAWASAKI 1'32.471
3 Valentino ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team YAMAHA 1'33.420
4 John HOPKINS USA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP SUZUKI 1'33.862
5 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1'33.890
6 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Ducati Marlboro Team DUCATI 1'33.975
7 Anthony WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team KAWASAKI 1'34.033
8 Carlos CHECA SPA Honda LCR HONDA 1'34.167
9 Toni ELIAS SPA Honda Gresini HONDA 1'34.397
10 Chris VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP SUZUKI 1'34.728
11 Colin EDWARDS USA Fiat Yamaha Team YAMAHA 1'35.244
12 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1'35.598
13 Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1'35.791
14 Marco MELANDRI ITA Honda Gresini HONDA 1'35.981
15 Chaz DAVIES GBR Pramac d'Antin DUCATI 1'36.118
16 Makoto TAMADA JPN Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1'37.764
17 Alex BARROS BRA Pramac d'Antin DUCATI 1'38.145
18 Shinya NAKANO JPN Konica Minolta Honda HONDA 1'40.908
19 Kurtis ROBERTS USA Team Roberts KR212V 1'47.458
Free practice two results:
1 Casey STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team DUCATI 1'31.286
2 Marco MELANDRI ITA Honda Gresini HONDA 1'31.555
3 Dani PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1'31.802
4 Valentino ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team YAMAHA 1'31.934
5 Randy DE PUNIET FRA Kawasaki Racing Team KAWASAKI 1'31.996
6 Alex BARROS BRA Pramac d'Antin DUCATI 1'32.164
7 Carlos CHECA SPA Honda LCR HONDA 1'32.182
8 Loris CAPIROSSI ITA Ducati Marlboro Team DUCATI 1'32.203
9 Nicky HAYDEN USA Repsol Honda Team HONDA 1'32.316
10 Anthony WEST AUS Kawasaki Racing Team KAWASAKI 1'32.459
11 John HOPKINS USA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP SUZUKI 1'33.274
12 Shinya NAKANO JPN Konica Minolta Honda HONDA 1'33.838
13 Chaz DAVIES GBR Pramac d'Antin DUCATI 1'33.910
14 Chris VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP SUZUKI 1'33.945
15 Colin EDWARDS USA Fiat Yamaha Team YAMAHA 1'33.965
16 Sylvain GUINTOLI FRA Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1'33.991
17 Toni ELIAS SPA Honda Gresini HONDA 1'34.204
18 Makoto TAMADA JPN Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3 YAMAHA 1'35.177
19 Kurtis ROBERTS USA Team Roberts KR212V 1'36.121