Valentino Rossi snatched top spot from Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo on his last lap in today’s opening free practice at the spectacular Laguna Seca circuit.
A best time of 1.21.981 on his 32nd and final lap gave Rossi the quickest time by 0.112s over Spaniard Lorenzo, who had led for last 11 minutes before Rossi’s late, late show.
In what was an exciting session in gloriously sunny conditions at the California track, just 0.189s split Italian Rossi and factory Ducati rider Stoner in third place as the world’s top trio dominated the session.
Dani Pedrosa was fourth on the Repsol Honda RC212V but way adrift by nearly half-a-second from Stoner and over 0.6s from current world championship leader Rossi.
Rossi hadn’t led the session since the opening 13 minutes when he produced his brilliant final lap to deny Lorenzo, who had looked to have done enough to take the spoils with a best time of 1.22.093 on his 29th of a marathon 38-lap run.
Lorenzo completed more laps than any other rider as he looked to gain crucial experience over long distance of the Laguna circuit, the Spaniard not even completely a lap in 2008 when he high-sided in spectacular fashion after just six corners.
Stoner had to settle for third with a best of 1.22.170 and he’d led the way for nearly 30 minutes, the 23-year-old suffering a recurrence of the severe stomach problems that struck him in Catalunya and Assen.
Behind Pedrosa in fourth was a rejuvenated Pramac Ducati rider Toni Elias, the Spaniard edging out Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso for fifth spot. Aussie Chris Vermeulen recovered to finish eighth after he’d crashed his number one factory Suzuki GSV-R at the first corner with just eight minutes gone.
Vermeulen, who is chasing a third consecutive podium finish in California, escaped injury and rode his second bike to a best time of 1.23.217.
Home favourite Colin Edwards had a tough session in ninth as he struggled with front and rear suspension issues and Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider Toseland was only 13th quickest with a best time of 1.23.690s. Only 1.76s though split the top 14.