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Stoner stays ahead in second Le Mans practice

18 May 2012

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).

Danilo Petrucci suffered a major engine failure on his Ioda-Aprilia, while Speed Master's Mattia Pasini fell at the halfway stage.

Chris Vermeulen - making his MotoGP return in place of the injured Colin Edwards - completed his first day of grand prix action since 2009 on Friday.

The Australian, winner at Le Mans in 2007, cut the gap to the top from 7.077s this morning to 5.643s this afternoon on the Forward Racing team's Suter-BMW.

Free practice (2):

1. Casey Stoner
2. Dani Pedrosa
3. Jorge Lorenzo
4. Alvaro Bautista
5. Ben Spies
6. Andrea Dovizioso
7. Cal Crutchlow
8. Hector Barbera
9. Valentino Rossi
10. Nicky Hayden
11. Stefan Bradl
12. Karel Abraham
13. Randy De Puniet
14. Yonny Hernandez
15. Mattia Pasini
16. Michele Pirro
17. Aleix Espargaro
18. Danilo Petrucci
19. Ivan Silva
20. James Ellison
21. Chris Vermeulen


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