Sepang MotoGP: Valentino Rossi quickest in first practice

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Valentino Rossi continued where he left off in winter testing at the Sepang circuit today, the Italian topping the opening practice timesheets in baking hot conditions in Malaysia.

The 31-year-old, who dominated winter testing at the Sepang track in February, clocked a best time of 2.02.734 to edge out compatriot Andrea Dovizioso’s Repsol Honda RC212V by just 0.109s.

Rossi, who finished third after an epic scrap with team-mate Jorge Lorenzo in Japan five days ago, set his best time with ten minutes of the session remaining after Dovizioso surged to the top at the halfway stage.

And nobody was able to topple the Fiat Yamaha Yamaha rider in the closing stages, with Dovizioso logging a best of 2.02.833 to edge out Lorenzo in third.

Rossi again showed no signs that his on-going right shoulder injury will cause him too many problems at Sepang as he was a permanent fixture in the top five throughout. Rossi had to deny speculation yesterday that he would stop after this weekend’s Sepang clash to undergo surgery on the right shoulder he damaged in a motocross training accident in April.

Lorenzo was able to set the third fastest time at the start of the biggest weekend of his Grand Prix career.

The Spaniard only needs to finish in the top ten in Sunday’s race to clinch his first premier class world championship and he set a best time of 2.02.898 to finish just 0.065s adrift of Dovizioso.

Casey Stoner’s bid for a third straight win made a good start when he moved to the top of the timesheets with just eight minutes elapsed with a lap of 2.03.332.

But less than five minutes later the 24-year-old Aussie crashed at turn four when he lost the front-end of his factory Ducati GP10.

He eventually finished fourth quickest with a best time of 2.03.160 that left him over 0.4s behind Rossi.

Alvaro Bautista confirmed again that Suzuki’s factory GSV-R machine is no slouch in searing hot conditions after he posted the fifth best time.

Suzuki’s V4 has always worked well in hot conditions and Bautista set a best time of 2.03.338 to finish just 0.178s behind 2007 world champion Stoner.

Colin Edwards’ revival continued after he claimed a place in the top six again. Fifth place at the Twin Ring Motegi last weekend was his best result of the season and he was sixth quickest this afternoon in temperatures that hit a punishing

The Texan set a best time of 2.03.393 with fellow American Ben Spies a further three places back on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 machine.

Today’s session was a closely contested affair with less than a second covering the top 12.

Nicky Hayden had another tough afternoon, the factory Ducati rider languishing down in 15th place and over 1.2s off the pace.

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Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt