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Stoner set Friday practice standard at Le Mans

Casey Stoner fastest during Friday free practice (2) for the French MotoGP at Le Mans.
Casey Stoner completed a perfect sweep of Friday practice for the French MotoGP at Le Mans.

The reigning double MotoGP champion, who shocked the motorsport world on Thursday by announcing he will retire at the end of this season, had been over half-a-second clear of Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa this morning.

The Australian, who moved to the top of the 2012 standings after his second win of the season last time out at Estoril, then took the lead of the afternoon session from Pedrosa with eight of the 45-minutes remaining.

Stoner then improved his best time slightly to finish 0.265s in front of Pedrosa. Pedrosa, whose 2011 title hopes effectively ended after a broken collarbone following a collision with the late Marco Simoncelli at Le Mans last year, is seeking his first win of the season.

Former Le Mans winner Lorenzo, who trails Stoner by a single point in the championship, had been just sixth quickest this morning - but improved to third place, and top Yamaha, by the end of the afternoon.

Early session leader Lorenzo's best time, set on only his fourth of 20 laps, proved to be 0.396s from Stoner.

Gresini Honda's Alvaro Bautista posted a surprise fourth fastest lap time to be the leading satellite rider. The Spaniard was followed on the timesheets by Lorenzo's factory team-mate Ben Spies - who fell - and Yamaha Tech 3 team-mates Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow.

The ten top seven riders being covered by 0.870s, with a further 0.469s separating Crutchlow from Pramac's Hector Barbera. Barbera was the top Ducati rider, just as he had been this morning.

Factory Ducati riders Valentino Rossi, fifth during the first half of the session, and Nicky Hayden were both within 0.053s of Barbera.

Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) and Karel Abraham (Cardion AB Ducati) were the slowest of the manufacturer bikes, with home star Randy de Puniet again leading the CRT challenge in 13th.

The Aspar Aprilia rider, who team-mate Aleix Espargaro fell in both Friday sessions, was 0.490s ahead of Avintia's Yonny Hernandez (FTR-Kawasaki).

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