Casey Stoner’s bid to claim his first ever victory at the Jerez circuit in Spain got off to a mixed start today.
The Australian ended the session with the fastest time having impressively led the way from only his second lap.
But he suffered a late crash on his factory Ducati GP10 when he lost the front at the Angel Nieto corner with just over two minutes remaining.
Stoner walked away unhurt and his best lap of 1.39.731 set on only his fourth lap ensured he claimed top spot as the MotoGP world championship started its crucial European sector.
Stoner was typically dominant at the start of the session and after only two laps he was more than half-a-second clear of the field.
Less than ten minutes had elapsed and he was close to a second faster than his rivals before the field slowly starting to reel in the 2007 world champion.
Fiat Yamaha rider and home favourite Jorge Lorenzo spearheaded the challenge as he spent the majority of the session chipping away at Stoner’s advantage.
By the end the Spaniard, who has been on pole position at Jerez in 2008 and ’09, got to within 0.144s of Stoner as he completed a 30-lap stint – more than any other rider.
Nicky Hayden’s brilliant fourth place in the season’s opening race in Qatar appears not to have been a fluke as the American’s impressive form continued this afternoon in mild conditions at the Andalucian circuit.
The Kentucky rider was never outside of the top five on the timesheets and a late burst saw him leapfrog Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa into third spot.
Hayden logged a best time of 1.40.148 to finish 0.417s adrift of Stoner but 0.052s clear of an improving Pedrosa on the Repsol Honda RC212V.
Reigning world champion Rossi had to settle for fifth as he looked troubled by the on-going right shoulder injury he suffered in a motocross training accident earlier this month.
The Italian finished with a best time of 1.40.359 to finish 0.628s slower than Stoner.
Loris Capirossi was sixth on the factory Suzuki GSV-R but the last rider to lap inside of a second of Stoner.
Reigning World Superbike champion Ben Spies made an encouraging start on his first appearance at the Jerez track.
The Spanish circuit is one of nine tracks that Spies has never raced on before but he clocked a best time of 1.41.200 to finish only 1.469s off Stoner.
That time secured Spies a creditable 11th place on the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine and he was only 0.010s behind tenth placed Marco Melandri.
Spaniard Hector Barbera finished in an impressive eighth position on the Aspar Ducati, despite a small crash at the final corner in the early stages.
And Alvaro Bautista shrugged off an off-track excursion to finish in ninth on the Rizla Suzuki GSV-R.