Stoner Stays on Top in Qatar

Henny Ray Abrams | April 6, 2012
Casey Stoner sets fastest lap in first warmup session at Qatar.

Photography By: Gold & Goose

LOSAIL, QATAR, APRIL 6 – Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner spent much of Friday’s first warm but blustery practice session in the middle of a Yamaha horde before breaking out with the fastest lap of the weekend – and the only one in the 1:55s – towards the end of the session.

Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo dominated the session, holding the top spot for most of the 45 minutes. Behind him in various orders were fellow Yamaha riders Andrea Dovizioso and Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), and teammate Ben Spies, along with Stoner.

Lorenzo set a new fast lap with about 3:20 remaining, Dovi taking second almost instantly, with Pramac Racing Team Ducati’s Hector Barbera moving into third. But 40 seconds later Stoner leaped to the top with a lap of 1:55.960, the only lap below 1:56.

Over the final few minutes, and final two laps, Lorenzo didn’t improve his lap time and Stoner continued the dominance he’d shown in pre-season. Dovizioso ended up third at 1:56.648, with Spies fourth at a gap of .023 of a second.

Barbera was the first Ducati in fifth, only .007 of a second from Spies with the benefit of the fastest motorcycle. Barbera clocked a new circuit top speed of 339 kph/210.645 mph, eclipsing the early mark of 338.557 kph (209.9 mph) set by Dani Pedrosa in 2009. His wasn’t the only fast Ducati. Four of the five fastest top speed times were set by Ducati riders.

Repsol Honda’s Pedrosa had the disinction of becoming the first MotoGP rider to crash this season. The Spaniard crashed very early in the session when he lost the front end in the right-hand turn nine kink. After a change of leathers, he went back out and made a late march up the leaderboard, finishing sixth fastest.

Ducati Marlboro’s Nicky Hayden had been as high up as fifth before dropping to seventh, a tenth behind Pedrosa, at the end of the 45-minute session. Teammate Valentino Rossi was again 10th, as he’d been in Thursday’s lone free practice. Rossi had the second highest top speed of 209.042 mph, with Hayden’s speed nearly identical.

Behind Hayden came Crutchlow, the Englishman unable to stay among the leaders as the pace heated up, and Stefan Bradl on the LCR Honda MotoGP RC213V.

NGM Mobile Forward Racing ‘s Colin Edwards was the top CRT machine in 13th. Edwards’ lap time of 1:58.801 was about three seconds from Stoner’s pace and 1.133 seconds behind the last of the prototypes – Alvaro Bautista on the San Carlo Honda Gresini RC213V. More stark was the difference in top speed. Edwards topped out at a deficit of 16 kph, about 10 mph, to Bautista.

Qatar Grand Prix Practice Results:

1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:55.960
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:56.174
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:56.648
4. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:56.671
5. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:56.678
6. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:56.697
7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:56.782
8. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:56.814
9. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:57.197
10. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:57.274
13. Colin Edwards (BMW-Suter) 1:58.801

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.