MotoGP world champion Jorge Lorenzo's US Grand Prix weekend has been thrown into jeopardy by a huge highside at the very end of Saturday morning practice at Laguna Seca.

The Factory Yamaha star, fastest on Friday and a close third this morning, had just done a practice start when he was tossed into the air at the exit of turn five, before slamming down hard on the asphalt and being clipped by his bike as he slid into the gravel.

Clearly in pain, Lorenzo nevertheless refused a stretcher and eventually limped away with the help of marshals, before heading for the medical centre.

Lorenzo has closed to within 15 points of world championship leader Casey Stoner, who led a trio of riders below the 1min 22sec mark during the Saturday morning session.

Despite the cool conditions, the ever-cleaner Californian track surrendered greater grip than yesterday, allowing Stoner to break into the 1min 21sec after just ten minutes.

Lorenzo and Dani Pedrosa soon joined him, although further improvements by Stoner kept the title leader in charge right to the chequered flag.

But only just. Pedrosa, winner last Sunday in Germany, closed to 0.017sec of his team-mate, with Lorenzo only 0.049sec from the top.

A near 0.4sec gap then separated Lorenzo from the Gresini-run factory Honda Marco Simoncelli. Ben Spies moved up the order to fifth to hold top American honours, ahead of Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda) and Ducati's Nicky Hayden.

Hayden - who made his debut on the new GP11.1 during Friday practice - is reported to be switching back to the 'normal' GP11 for the rest of this weekend. Hayden was 0.6sec from the top and made clear gains over his Friday time.

Despite some doubts, team-mate Valentino Rossi - who has raced the GP11.1 for the past three rounds - has decided to continue exclusively with the new bike this weekend. The Italian legend was one place behind Hayden during final practice and 0.841sec from Stoner.

Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista and fellow Spaniard Hector Barbera (Aspar Ducati) completed a top ten covered by 1.071sec.

Then came Pramac Ducati's Randy de Puniet and Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow, who was again the top Laguna rookie in 13th place.

Toni Elias (LCR Honda) and Karel Abraham (Cardion AB) both crashed without harm during the session.

37-year-old Ben Bostrom, making his MotoGP debut this weekend on Elias's spare LCR Honda, remained just over four-seconds from the top.

The Factory Yamaha team are riding in special red-and-white livery for the second time this season, continuing their 50th anniversary of grand prix road racing celebrations. Spies took his first ever MotoGP win in red-and-white at Assen.

Saturday practice:

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


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