The final pre-season MotoGP test of 2009 has fallen to Casey Stoner, courtesy of a stunning lap time set during the 45-minute 'qualifying' shootout at Jerez on Sunday.

With rain that brought an early end to that session lingering on, only ten riders chose to take advantage of the following 3.15-6pm track session - the last before Friday practice begins at Qatar on April 10 - and those that did lapped well off dry pace.

Stoner's BMW-winning 1min 38.646sec - which had been a huge 0.719sec clear of nearest rival and reigning world champion Valentino Rossi - therefore remained unchallenged Stoner was visibly pleased with such a strong showing at a track traditionally difficult for both the Australian and his 800cc Desmosedici.

"I really don't know where that fast lap came from, especially at this track where I've never even been on the podium before!" smiled Stoner, who smashed the existing lap record by nearly 1.5 seconds despite the loss of qualifying tyres. "It's been something of a bogey track for myself and the Ducati. The last two races here were difficult, but we definitely found something yesterday afternoon and that made us feeling more confident about Jerez. This is a very, very good step for us.

"This morning we went out and changed something else and immediately had a good feeling with the bike but still it was not in the right direction: we hit another wall. We were consistent but we needed to go a little bit further. This afternoon we changed a little bit the setting in the rear of the bike to try to get a bit more traction but I came out in the qualifying session not really expecting too much. I thought the rest were going to really up the ante. They did that and got their lap times down, but I never expected to do the lap times that I did when I needed to pull them out."

Of the three 2009 pre-season tests - held at Sepang, Qatar and then Jerez - Stoner has been fastest in all three (see below), with Rossi his nearest rival on two occasions. Stoner was also fastest at the Valencia post-race test in October 2008, by 0.208sec from Honda's Dani Pedrosa, but then missed November's Jerez test in order to recover from wrist surgery.

Stoner has thus been fastest in every test he has taken part in since the end of the 2008 season, but will be aware that raw speed alone is unlikely to be enough to beat Rossi.

"It's a great start to the year, but the real work now begins in Qatar," said the 2007 world champion. "Now I need these two weeks to come better physically, just fitness. The wrist is coming better and better all the time and the arm is getting stronger and it doesn't effect me when I ride so now I can use these two weeks to train a lot more and try to get ready for the beginning of the season. We look forward to it."

Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden was eleventh fastest in the 'qualifying' session.

2009 Sepang test:
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) +0.094sec
3. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) +0.219sec

2009 Qatar test:
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) +0.989sec
3. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1.228sec

2009 Jerez test:
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati)
2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) +0.719sec
3. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) +1.111sec

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