Casey Stoner ends 2010 pre-season on top

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Casey Stoner ended Valentino Rossi’s domination of the 2010 MotoGP pre-season campaign with an impressive display on Ducati’s factory GP10 machine in Qatar tonight. 

The Aussie slashed 0.4s off his best time from the opening night to dominate the last track action before the new season kicks off under the Losail International Circuit floodlights on April 11. 

A best lap of 1.55.353 on his 34th lap of a 51-lap stint put the 2007 world champion a massive 0.507s clear of Fiat Yamaha rival Rossi.

It wasn’t a completely smooth night though for the 24-year-old, who is chasing a fourth successive victory in Qatar at the first race next month. Shortly after 9pm as the humidity increased, Stoner crashed heavily at the second corner.

In the previous hour Ben Spies, Colin Edwards and factory Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden had all crashed in identical circumstances at the same corner.

All but Edwards blamed moisture on the track as a result of the balmy conditions but Stoner walked away unhurt. Remarkably it is the third successive winter test at Qatar that he crashed at the second corner, but his time was less than a tenth quicker than Rossi’s best on the opening evening.

For the first time in 2010 winter testing, Italian Rossi had to settle for second place on board his factory Yamaha YZR-M1. The 31-year-old posted a best time of 1.55.860, which was over 0.4s adrift of his best time on the opening night.

The reigning world champion said: “This has been another good day. We’ve concentrated mostly on the race preparation and it feels like we’re now ready for the first race. We did a long run at the end of the session and we got some good information, which will help us in the race.

“Now that testing is over I am very excited about the season. We’ve been strong throughout the six days of practice and it feels good to have been fast here also, where we have struggled in the past. We have only tested at two tracks so we need to wait for another different one to fully understand the new bike, but we’re in good shape. My M1 feels great and I’m looking forward to racing.”

Honda got some welcome respite from a mounting list of problems with its factory Honda RC212V machine. Andrea Dovizioso was third quickest with a best time of 1.55.879 to end up just 0.019s slower than Rossi.

The 2009 British GP winner was a full second quicker tonight as he tried a modified chassis for the first time on his RC212V machine.

Hayden shrugged off his second corner crash to log the fourth best time and continue his resurgent form on the factory Ducati GP10.

The Kentucky rider was 0.7s faster than yesterday and less than 0.3s away from Rossi.

Hayden also escaped unhurt when he was the third of the Turn Two victims at just before 9pm.

Loris Capirossi used a new GSV-R chassis to steer his factory Suzuki to fifth place with Jorge Lorenzo a respectable sixth quickest on his return from injury.

Still suffering pain from the broken right thumb he suffered in a training accident last month, the Spaniard clocked a best time of 1.56.504.

The double 250GP world champion said: “Today my hand felt okay, maybe a bit worse than yesterday. Of course it’s not as good as before the accident but this is to be expected! It’s hard for me in the braking areas and I can’t push any harder than I have been today at the moment, but I hope it will have improved a lot by the time of the first race. Our bike is great,

“Yamaha have done a fantastic job and you can see this from the strong performance of all the Yamaha riders. We’ve done a lot of work and tried many things, so I hope that these will help us when we come back here in three weeks. I will keep working to strengthen my hand and I hope to be in much better condition by then.”

Monster Yamaha Tech 3 duo Edwards and Spies had a tough night. Neither could improve their times from the first night and they ended eighth and tenth respectively.

Both were fortunate to escape injury in high-speed crashes at the second corner.
Spies, who also crashed at the second corner on the first night, said: “I didn’t have a great night really but that can happen. Everything that could go wrong went wrong tonight. But I’ve have had a great winter and this was the first session where it didn’t go the way we wanted it to. I’d had some small issues early on and went into Turn Two again and just lost the front.

“I wasn’t really sure what happened but then four people crashed in the next 30 minutes so it must have got really humid really quick because something wasn’t right with that many people going down in the same place. I did a few more laps to clear my head and got down to some decent times and I’m happy I did that. But it was still a successful test and I leave confident that I’ll be competitive for the race next month.”

Fellow Texan Edwards said: “It wasn’t the ending to testing I was looking for but it wasn’t too bad. I just didn’t really have a great feeling with the bike tonight and we need to have a think about things before we come back for the race next month. We’ve got some work to do because I just didn’t feel as comfortable on the bike as I did last year, mainly with the front-end. And I know I go good at this track because I had a good race last year and finished fourth. I’m not sure what happened with the crash but I did exactly the same as Ben.

“I was on the soft front tyre that I’d not really run that much on the first night. But I was on my sixth lap on the tyre, so it should have been ready to push. But I was down before I knew it and it is a fast crash, even if you’re only still in second gear. I’m just glad I didn’t get hurt because that was a fast crash.”

Dani Pedrosa’s awful form continued as the Repsol Honda rider was left languishing down in 13th place. He was beaten by Aleix Espargaro and Suzuki rookie Alvaro Bautista as his struggle to adapt to Ohlins suspension showed no signs of improving.

Pedrosa could only produce a best lap of 1.56.935 to finish a massive 1.582s away from Stoner.

The fortunes of former world 250GP champion Marco Simoncelli continue to plummet as well. The San Carlo Gresini Honda rider was down in last place with a best lap of 1.57.379. That left the Italian 2.026s slower than Stoner. And already bereft of confidence after massive crashes in successive Sepang tests in February,

Simoncelli’s fragile morale took another bashing when he crashed at Turn Six tonight.

Casey Stoner Ducati GP10                        1.55.353
Valentino Rossi Yamaha YZR-M1           1.55.860
Andrea Dovizioso Honda RC212V           1.55.879
Nicky Hayden    Ducati GP10                     1.56.115
Loris Capirossi Suzuki GSV-R             1.56.195
Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha YZR-M1             1.56.504
Randy de Puniet Honda RC212V            1.56.504
Colin Edwards Yamaha YZR-M1             1.56.722
Mika Kallio Ducati GP10                 1.56.767
Ben Spies Yamaha YZR-M1                 1.56.779
Aleix Espargaro Ducati GP10                     1.56.897
Alvaro Bautista Suzuki GSV-R            1.56.898
Dani Pedrosa    Honda RC212V            1.56.935
Marco Melandri Honda RC212V             1.57.222
Hector Barbera Ducati GP10                       1.57.223
Hiroshi Aoyama Honda RC212V             1.57.251
Marco Simoncelli Honda RC212V           1.57.379

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt