If there had been any doubts that Casey Stoner might be a lessor force to be reckoned with following his shock retirement announcement, they were quickly banished at Le Mans on Friday.
Stoner stunned the MotoGP world with his Thursday evening announcement, then promptly returned to what he does best during Friday practice for round four of the 2012 series.
“After yesterday's announcement, I definitely felt a weight off my shoulders when I got on the bike this morning,” said the 26-year-old.
“The last two races I've had a lot of thoughts running through my mind and this weekend I already feel better knowing it's off my chest and we can now focus on the rest of the season, and try to enjoy it".
The reigning double world champion, who took the 2012 lead with his second win of the season last time at Estoril, led both track sessions to finish the day 0.265s ahead of Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa.
Stoner revealed he had actually been trying to create chatter today, in order to better understand the long-running handling (vibration) problem with the new RC213V.
“The sessions today went quite well for us. Believe it or not, today we were trying to create chatter, so we can make the most use of this dry time on track to understand it a little better and make some improvements for the rest of the season," he said.
“We are happy to use some of the sessions to focus on fixing the chatter issue, and not worry about the set-up immediately. We started to find some chatter at the end of the day when we switched to the hard front tyre and hopefully it will stay dry tomorrow so we can continue to work on this.”
Stoner's nearest title rival, Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, was third quickest (+0.396s).
Stoner won at Le Mans last year, when Lorenzo was fourth.