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Stoner leads wet Valencia practice

4 November 2011

World champion Casey Stoner emerged fastest after a cold and wet opening practice session for the final round of the 2011 MotoGP World Championship at Valencia.

The Friday morning session marked the first time MotoGP bikes have been on track since Marco Simoncelli's fatal accident at Sepang two weeks' ago.

Loris Capirossi - who will end a 22-year grand prix carer on Sunday - appeared on track with Simoncelli's #58 on his Pramac Ducati. The Italian put Simoncelli's number on top of the timesheets with eight minutes remaining, before finishing in fifth place.

With sun breaking through the clouds in the closing stages, Stoner and Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa both set their best time on their last lap. The Australian was 0.223sec ahead of the home hero. Lap times were over ten-seconds from dry record pace.

Ducati's Valentino Rossi, who will debut a Simoncelli tribute helmet on Saturday, was third quickest (0.315s), with team-mate Nicky Hayden fourth (+0.560s).

Fellow American Ben Spies was the leading Yamaha, behind Capirossi in sixth (+0.746s), followed by Capirossi's team-mate Randy de Puniet (+0.858s), LCR Honda's Toni Elias (+0.880s), Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso (+0.889s) and Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow (+1.068s).

Alvaro Bautista, who will make an announcement about his 2012 plans on Sunday, was eleventh quickest for Rizla Suzuki, followed by fellow Spaniard Hector Barbera, who is tipped to move from Aspar to Pramac for next season.

Karel Abraham, just one point behind Crutchlow in the rookie of the year contest, was 13th for Cardion AB Ducati, followed by Simoncelli's team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama.

Aoyama was riding with the words "Ciao Marco. One of us" (in Italian) in place of San Carlo sponsorship on the side of his bike. Aoyama will move to WSBK with Castrol Honda next year.

The last two places on the 16-rider line-up went to replacements Josh Hayes and Katsuyuki Nakasuga.

Hayes, the reigning double AMA Superbike champion, has been drafted in at Tech 3 to replace the injured Colin Edwards, while Nakasuga is again substituting for 2010 world champion Jorge Lorenzo at the factory Yamaha team.

Despite no prior knowledge of the track, bike or tyres, Hayes made a solid start to his first grand prix by lapping 2.5sec from Stoner. Nakasuga was a further 0.3sec slower.

Second practice takes place this afternoon.

Friday practice 1:

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


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