MotoGP world championship leader Casey Stoner denied Valentino Rossi the chance to thrill a passionate home crowd when he topped the timesheets in this morning’s extended free practice in Misano.
Stoner clocked a best time of 1.34.714 to finish 0.516s clear of Fiat Yamaha rider Rossi in a session extended to two hours after yesterday’s torrential rain flooded parts of the Misano circuit.
In stark contrast to yesterday’s monsoon conditions, this morning’s session mercifully got underway under sunny skies, with fears that more of yesterday’s torrential rain would put Misano’s first MotoGP race since 1993 under serious threat.
And it was Stoner who again came out on top, as the 21-year-old dominated for much of the second hour of the session.
Stoner had quickly found his form in the dry when he topped the timesheets after only ten minutes with a lap of 1.38.478. It was an advantage he held for nearly half-an-hour before Rossi had the home crowd in raptures when he posted a 1.36.883 to move 0.250s clear of Stoner.
Rossi was then relegated to second just eight minutes later when factory Yamaha team-mate Colin Edwards seized top spot with a lap of 1.36.857 edging out Rossi by just 0.026s.
Fifty minutes had elapsed when Stoner regained control as he bids to extend his massive 60-point series lead over Rossi in tomorrow’s 28-lap race.
He logged a 1.36.422 to jump 0.241 ahead of surprise leader Carlos Checa, and within six minutes he had extended his advantage to over 0.4s with a 1.36.095.
Just before the halfway mark, triple world champion Dani Pedrosa cut Stoner’s advantage to 0.116s when the Spaniard clocked a 1.36.211. His advantage was slashed even further on the hour mark when Rossi put in a 1.36.139 lap to reclaim second, just 0.044s behind Stoner.
Anthony West made it an Aussie 1-2 for a few moments when he posted a 1.36.086 but just a minute later and Stoner was the first rider to duck into the 1.35 bracket.
His dominance was threatened when Rossi surged to a 1.35.395 to move ahead of Stoner by 0.016s with 18 minutes remaining. But Stoner then produced a brilliant late surge. Seven minutes were left on the clock when he posted a 1.34.909 to leap 0.486s clear of Rossi. On his next lap he then set a 1.34.714 to climb 0.681s clear.
Rossi retaliated to improve his best time to 1.35.230, but it was still more than half-a-second adrift of Stoner’s factory Ducati GP7.
Rossi seemed much happier to be running closer to the top of the timesheets as he tries to end a barren run of form that has seen him without a podium in the last three races.
Six hundred die-hard Doctor fans from his official fan club made the eight-mile walk this morning from Rossi’s hometown of Tavullia, and already the grandstands and grass banks are becoming a sea of yellow.
West, fresh from clinching a 2008 contract with Kawasaki’s factory team, was third fastest after clocking a 1.35.582. Texan Edwards was fifth behind Checa, while Chris Vermeulen was the only other rider in sixth to finish inside of a second of Stoner’s blistering pace.