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Stoner happy with strong start.

Casey Stoner's perfect pre-season form translated into a relatively unchallenged first position during Friday practice for the 2009 MotoGP season opener at Qatar.

Ducati Marlboro's 2007 world champion, quickest at all three pre-season tests held this year - including at Qatar - dominated the 45-minute session, although reigning six time world champion Valentino Rossi mounted a late charge to close to within 0.386sec of the Australian.

Third fastest Colin Edward (+0.782sec) was the only other rider within one-second of Stoner - who has taken victory at Losail for the past two seasons and now looks to have confirmed his position as favourite for this Sunday's race.

Nevertheless, having set a best lap time 1.3sec faster than on Friday during the Qatar test in early March - when he sat almost one second clear of the field - Stoner knows lap times are likely to improve significantly as the track surface becomes cleaner.

"We've made a good start today and I'm happy because the bike feeling was really good straight away,” said Casey. “The settings we brought from Jerez seem to be working well here too.

“We still need to change a couple of things to get more grip from the rear,” he continued. “A lot of that is due to the track conditions being really dusty but we just need to take our time and try to get it set up better for tomorrow. Hopefully the track will clean up too."

Second free practice and qualifying takes place on Saturday night.

Related Pictures

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Stoner, Qatar MotoGP, 2009
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