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Stoner final practice at Le Mans

Casey Stoner fastest during Friday practice (3) for the French MotoGP at Le Mans, round four of the 2011 world championship.
Casey Stoner will head into this afternoon's MotoGP qualifying session at Le Mans having been fastest in all three free practice sessions.

The Repsol Honda rider, on pole for the first two rounds and winner at Qatar, once again led most of the 45-minute session - until Marco Simoncelli hit the front in the final minute.

But Stoner responded by pushing the San Carlo Honda Gresini back down to second, by 0.260sec, on his final lap. The Australian's best was slightly slower than his quickest Friday time.

Behind Simoncelli were Stoner's team-mates Andrea Dovizioso (+0.429sec) and Dani Pedrosa (+0.730sec), who were also the only riders within one-second of the 2007 world champion.

Ducati's Nicky Hayden, a surprise fourth on Friday afternoon, was again the top non-Honda - this time in fifth place (+1.139sec) after another late lap.

2011 title leader Lorenzo - winner for Yamaha at Le Mans for the last two years - was once again unable to threaten the factory RCVs.

The Spaniard, fifth in both of Friday's sessions, finished sixth on Saturday morning, 1.236sec from Stoner.

Valentino Rossi, whose hopes of making a clear step forward with the new Ducati chassis were dashed with ninth place on Friday, improved his position slightly to seventh - but the gap to Stoner has grown to 1.465sec.

Top satellite bike rider, and second best Yamaha, was Tech 3's Colin Edwards in eighth (+1.466sec), followed closely by fellow M1 riders Ben Spies (+1.487sec) and Cal Crutchlow (+1.627sec).

Alvaro Bautista put his lone Suzuki into 13th place, ahead of three Ducatis and the LCR Honda of Toni Elias.

Qualifying takes place on Saturday afternoon.

Friday practice (3):

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

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