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Casey Stoner kicks off on top Down Under

26 October 2012

Casey Stoner began his final home Australian MotoGP weekend in stunning form, leading much of Friday's opening practice session by over one-second.

Stoner, chasing a sixth Phillip Island win in a row on his last appearance at the circuit before retirement, looked untroubled by his healing ankle as he surged straight to the top of the timesheets.

Moisture from the sky caused a brief pause midway through the 45 minute session, by which time Stoner - seen sliding his way through the newly renamed downhill fifth-gear 'Stoner Corner' - was leading Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa by over one-second.

MotoGP title contender Pedrosa had earlier suffered a scare when Cal Crutchlow's knee slider brushed a kerb and kicked up a cloud of water just in front of the Spaniard, causing a big tank slapper that the RC213V rider just managed to control.

After the action resumed, MotoGP title leader Jorge Lorenzo closed to within 0.3s of Stoner - until the double world champion blasted over one-second clear once again.

Yamaha star Lorenzo clipped that down to 0.905s but could get no nearer to Stoner, whose best time of 1m 30.374s came on his 11th of 16 laps (split into two runs).

Pedrosa, who closed in further on Lorenzo with victory in a storm-shortened Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang last Sunday, was 0.254s slower than his fellow Spaniard in third place.

Both Pedrosa and Lorenzo have now won six races this year, with one non-score, but Lorenzo remains 23-points ahead.

Yamaha Tech 3 star Andrea Dovizioso and Honda Gresini's Alvaro Bautista (1.594s) pushed Crutchlow down to sixth (1.665s).

Nicky Hayden - who holds the official race lap record from 2008 - was the top Ducati in seventh (1.938s), with Honda LCR's Stefan Bradl (+1.982s), Ducati's Valentino Rossi (+2.281s) and Aspar CRT rider Randy de Puniet (2.892s) completing the top ten.

Michele Pirro, who looks set to swap his Gresini CRT race seat for a Ducati test role next year, fell after initially saving a near highside, then crashing after running onto the grass.

Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies is out for the rest of the season following shoulder surgery to repair damage sustained in last Sunday's Sepang fall.

Local rider Kris McLaren has been drafted into the Avintia Blusens squad in place of the injured Yonny Hernandez this weekend. McLaren rode as a wild-card in last year's Australian Moto2 Grand Prix and has raced in the Spanish CEV series this year.

McLaren was over 10 seconds off Stoner's pace this morning.

Friday practice (1):

1. Casey Stoner
2. Jorge Lorenzo
3. Dani Pedrosa
4. Andrea Dovizioso
5. Alvaro Bautista
6. Cal Crutchlow
7. Nicky Hayden
8. Stefan Bradl
9. Valentino Rossi
10. Randy De Puniet
11. Karel Abraham
12. Hector Barbera
13. Aleix Espargaro
14. Roberto Rolfo
15. Michele Pirro
16. Danilo Petrucci
17. James Ellison
18. Colin Edwards
19. Ivan Silva
20. Kris McLaren


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