Ducati test rider and former world champion Casey Stoner was a surprise top of the time sheets after the opening day of the 2017 MotoGP season, with the Australian dipping under the lap record at Malaysia’s Sepang circuit to finish the day clear of teammate Andrea Dovizioso and Yamaha new signing Maverick Viñales.
Stoner, who only jumped back on a bike this week for the first time since his last test for the Italian firm in July, went well clear of the lap record to finish on a 1:59.681 lap, with only Dovizioso joining him under the two-minute mark.
Speaking afterwards, the retired racer says that while the time was nice, the valuable track time in his role as test rider was even more important in the grand scheme of things.
“Today was positive and the best thing about it was that we got a lot of dry track time. It’s been hanging in the balance really with the weather because the track takes so long to dry and if it rains at all within twelve hours, you’re going to get very little track time.
“It’s great that we got out there straightaway this morning and started putting in some good laps, reconfirming what we felt earlier in the week. We got a lot of comparisons done today so it was really good to get a feeling and direction with the bike. We still have a lot more work to do, it was disappointing that it rained but hopefully on Wednesday when we come back on track we can pick up where we left off and move this bike further forward, especially in the chassis area.”
With the day brought to a premature halt thanks to a 4pm downpour ahead of a scheduled 6pm finish, Alvaro Bautista made it a good day for Ducati by taking his new Aspar GP16 machine to fourth, ahead of Andrea Iannone and Cal Crutchlow.
Valentino Rossi was seventh, while former teammate Jorge Lorenzo finished a distant 17th, pleased with his progress as he continues to modify his riding style to suit the Ducati.
Scott Redding was 12th, with Sam Lowes and Bradley Smith making up the last two places in 26th and 27th – but both were left confident that there’s more to come after concentrating on race pace and not lap times.
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