2007 MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner dominated Friday night's free practice session for the Qatar Grand Prix, the first event of the 2010 season.

Winner of the last three MotoGP events at Qatar, and fastest in the pre-season test just over two weeks ago, it was hardly a surprise to see the Ducati star on top of the timesheets with the new 'big bang' Desmosedici - but the extent of his advantage raised eyebrows.

Just 0.049sec quicker than Rossi at the test, Stoner moved a massive 0.906sec clear of the reigning seven time MotoGP champion by the halfway mark of the hour - an advantage he held until Rossi pulled it back to 0.650sec with 15 minutes remaining.

Rossi then found a further tenth, but that wasn't enough to stop injured Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo bumping the #46 back to third place in the closing minutes.

Lorenzo, runner-up to Rossi last season, then held onto second place despite falling from his factory M1, having set a best lap time 0.526sec from Stoner.

The Spaniard, who fractured his hand in a winter training accident, walked away unharmed from the fall and finished the session 0.002sec in front of Rossi - an outcome few would have predicted.

Andrea Dovizioso defended his newly gained status as the top Honda rider with a late fourth place, albeit 1.198sec behind Stoner, with Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden also making late progress to sit fifth on the second factory Desmosedici.

Reigning World Superbike champion Ben Spies was holding third in the middle stages for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, before dropping back to sixth by the close of the hour. The impressive American was both the top rookie and top satellite rider.

Suzuki's new signing Alvaro Bautista produced arguably the surprise of the session with seventh on his MotoGP debut, while LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet was an early frontrunner before settling into eighth.

Pramac Ducati's Mika Kallio and Aspar Ducati's Hector Barbera completed the top ten, with rookie Barbera sure to be pleased with his debut performance.

By contrast, Dovizioso's factory Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa, who finished the final pre-season test a troubled 13th and 1.5sec off the pace, was eleventh and 1.6sec off the pace after FP1.

The Spaniard has been battling handling problems since HRC's winter switch from Showa to Ohlins suspension, but was at least within half a second of Dovizioso.

Loris Capirossi, who crashed out of last year's rain-delayed night race, once again tumbled in a shower of sparks after losing the front of his Rizla Suzuki with a third of the session remaining.

The Italian, starting his record 300th grand prix this weekend, was eleventh at the time of his fall and finished the hour in 13th.

Between Pedrosa and Capirossi was the top 2009 satellite rider Colin Edwards, who had been just behind his team-mate Spies with ten minutes to go before losing a fistful of places.

San Carlo Honda Gresini's star rookie Marco Simoncelli may well have feared worse than a Friday 14th, after a torrid pre-season. The Italian at least beat Pramac's Aleix Espargaro, his vastly more experienced Gresini team-mate Marco Melandri and Interwetten Honda rookie Hiroshi Aoyama.

Reigning 250cc world champion Aoyama was 2.582sec slower than Stoner, but within one second of the top ten.
Friday practice

1. Stoner
2. Lorenzo
3. Rossi
4. Dovizioso
5. Hayden
6. Spies
7. Bautista
8. de Puniet
9. Kallio
10. Barbera
11. Pedrosa
12. Edwards
13. Capirossi
14. Simoncelli
15. Espargaro
16. Melandri
17. Aoyama

Comments

Join the conversation - Add your comment

Please login or register to add your comment