MotoGP Qatar test: Casey Stoner thrilled at night speed

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Reigning world champion Casey Stoner said he was pleasantly surprised at his incredible night test debut in Qatar.

Riding under the spectacular floodlights at the Losail International Circuit for the first time, Stoner stunned the paddock early on, taking just 14 laps to smash his 2007 lap record by over one second.

Nearly 90 minutes of the historic night test had elapsed when Casey Stoner clocked a 1:55.368, which beat his record lap set in the first race of 2007 by 1.2seconds.

Casey Stoner’s lap record pace nearly 12 months ago of 1:56.528 was obliterated, with no other rider capable of lapping within two seconds of the Aussie’s time for a lengthy period.

Stoner’s seventh lap was just 0.2secs outside of his lap record, and he ended the first night session with a best time of 1:55.330 on his 41st lap of a 61-lap run.

The Australian’s brilliant 2007 world championship-winning campaign started with a victory in Qatar last season, and he looks well set for a repeat.

“I am pretty surprised to be doing those lap times because I’m quicker than what I managed on a qualifier here last year,” he told MCN in the factory Ducati garage in the early hours of this morning.

“We are just doing what we have done all winter and that is work on the settings of the bike, but it feels like I’m in a much stronger position than I was this time last year.

“I’m definitely ready to race. I’m sick of testing now.”

Stoner was a fan of the new multi-million pound lighting project, which will see Qatar crate history on March 9, 2008 when the Middle East venue hosts the first MotoGP race at night.

The 22-year-old: added: “To me it is a lot easier almost because you don’t worry about so much.

“You can’t see all the imperfections on the track or look for dirty patches. Because you can’t see them you can just ride more freely.”

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt