Casey Stoner dominates Phillip Island practice

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Casey Stoner showed why he has not lost a MotoGP race on home soil since 2007 after dominating today’s opening practice sessions at the Phillip Island circuit.

In front of a massive Friday crowd congregating ahead of Stoner’s final appearance in Australia, the Repsol Honda brushed aside the pain and lack of movement in his recovering right ankle to blitz the field in cool and windy conditions ahead of Sunday’s 27-lap race.

Stoner’s bid for a sixth consecutive home victory started off in stunning fashion this morning when a lap of 1.30.374 put him 0.905s clear of world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo.

Factory Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa was the only other rider that managed to lap within 1.5s of Stoner’s blistering pace and the 27-year-old was untouchable again in FP2.

He needed eight laps of this afternoon’s session to better his FP1 benchmark with a 1.30.250 putting him over 0.7s clear of Lorenzo’s factory Yamaha YZR-M1.

He extended that lead with a lap of 1.29.999 to finish the session 0.885s clear of in-form Pedrosa, who arrivds in Australia in a rich vein of form having won five out of the last six races.

Pedrosa ended the day as the only rider to finish within a second of double MotoGP world champion Stoner, who will retire after next month’s season finale in Valencia.

Lorenzo finished third quickest with a best time of 1.31.005, but that left him a massive 1.006s behind the reigning world champion.

Cal Crutchlow shrugged off a high fever and a bout of bronchitis to set the fourth quickest time on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine.

Crutchlow knocked almost a second off his best pace from this morning to finish top non-factory rider with a best lap of 1.31.367. That put Crutchlow 0.091s ahead of Italian teammate Andrea Dovizioso.

Alvaro Bautista rounded out the top six with a fastest pace of 1.31.616, while Valentino Rossi found it a struggle to make Ducati’s GP12 competitive at Phillip Island.

The nine-times world champion was ninth this morning and 2.281s behind Stoner. The gap was reduced to 2.031s in FP2 as the 33-year-old climbed one place up the order in eighth with a best time of 1.32.030.

Teammate Nicky Hayden finished one place behind in ninth but the American was the only one inside the top 10 this afternoon not to improve on his pace from FP1.

James Ellison ended the opening day on the Paul Bird Motorsport Aprilia ART machine with a best lap of 1.34.561 that put him 17th.

Matthew Birt

By Matthew Birt