2007 MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner completed an impressive first day of free practice for the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, setting the quickest lap time of the day by 0.670secs during the dry morning hour.

"Everything went really well in the dry this morning and we quickly found a good set-up and feeling with the bike that allowed me to push quite hard straight away. We've still got some areas we can improve on but in the dry we're more or less ready to race," said the Ducati Marlboro star, who won his home grand prix last season.

Stoner then finished fourth in a soaking wet afternoon session, two places ahead of 2008 world champion Valentino Rossi - Stoner's nearest rival in the dry - but 1.765secs behind fastest man Nicky Hayden.

"We had a few more problems in the wet and have a few issues with the rear to sort out. So far we haven't found good traction and the changes we made to the bike didn't have the desired effect. I'm only half satisfied with today so if it's wet tomorrow we'll need to work really hard on finding a solution."

Between the two practice sessions, Stoner was given his replica version of the premier-class trophy introduced last year by Dorna's CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta and FIM representative Claude Danis in recognition of his world championship success in 2007.

Alongside him were Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner and Freddie Sheene - son of the legendary Englishman Barry - each retrospectively handed their editions of the impressive sculpture.

"It was a real honour to receive the trophy today as a world champion - especially alongside Mick and Wayne," said Casey. "I was too young to watch Wayne race but I have seen the videos and I grew up watching Mick. They both inspired a never-say-die attitude in me that has been crucial in my career.

"There were times in the not-too-distant past when I thought that being world champion was an impossible dream but that attitude helped to make it possible. That and a great team, great bike and great tyres!

"It was also nice to see Freddie because I think Barry Sheene was an inspiration to racers all over the world - not just in England and Australia - and everybody here at Phillip Island remembers him fondly."

Meanwhile, Stoner's team-mate Marco Melandri, also a former Phillip Island winner, struggled to find a suitable set-up for the dry conditions this morning - finishing 15th - and suffered even further in the afternoon, when he was 18th and last. The Italian is hoping the positive forecasts for tomorrow prove accurate.

"It hasn't been a good first day and, as we've seen so many times this year, the change in conditions from one session to the next certainly hasn't helped," said the 2009 Kawasaki rider. "The problems are still the same - I can't get any feeling for the tyres and I can't ride the bike like I want. Hopefully the conditions are more stable tomorrow."



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