Photography By: Gold & Goose
LOSAIL, QATAR, APRIL 6 - A pair of Yamahas ended the reign of Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner atop the time sheets in Friday's second free practice session on a warm night under the lights at the Losail International Circuit in Qatar, but the World Champion wasn't worried.
Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo knocked Stoner off his perch with over four minutes to go in the 45-minute free practice session, the third of the weekend. To that point Stoner had been impressively fast every time out and had led the session for over half an hour with the fourth of his 13 laps.
But Lorenzo's reign lasted a little over a minute before he was taken down by Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow. Crutchlow had also been quick throughout and put together his best lap with just over three minutes to run. Then on Lorenzo's next lap he bettered Crutchlow's time by .154 of a second to take overnight bragging rights on the 15th of his 17 laps with a lap of 1:55.302.
The difference between Stoner and the Yamahas was tires. Lorenzo set his fast time on the softer option Bridgestone rear, a tire that won't last race distance and which Stoner didn't try. Certainly the Repsol Honda rider will have something to say about the order of the top three in Saturday night qualifying.
More important than qualifying to Lorenzo was his race pace, and tire conservation with the new, less durable Bridgestones is of paramount importance.
"We are trying to avoid a little bit the spinning and sliding," Lorenzo said. "With this bike it's much more than the 800, so this together with the new tires make the dropping of the rear tire a big challenge for everyone and the one who save a little bit more the tire will have a big advantage for the race."
Crutchlow was a surprise second, which Lorenzo said was "Impressive, impressive.
"He's really fast. We all know that in qualifying he's really fast. If he finds the constant pace and he's constant on the race, he can make podiums now. He can win races this year."
Stoner was third, working on race pace and not concerned with an outright fast lap.
"We had a couple of problems in the first two sessions but we got rid of those some more in the final session tonight and it was very positive," Stoner said. "We were able to turn down the electronics a lot more and I got a lot more feeling and connection with the rear tire, which gave me a lot better feeling. I was able to do some pretty good lap times with old tires. But a few people got in my way early and later in the session and I wasn't really able to show what I was capable of, but I know what how I feel and I'm confident."
Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Andrea Dovizioso was fourth fastest and .231 of a second back.
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa recovered from a crash in the morning to post the fifth fastest time ahead of Pramac Racing Team's Hector Barbera, the rider with the second fastest motorcycle.
Ducatis ruled the top speed charts, though that didn't translate to fast lap times. The fastest bike belonged to Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden at a maximum velocity of 338.8 kph (210 mph). Hayden was seventh fastest and struggling with front-end chatter.
"I mean, the track's cleaning up, we're getting more grip and I'm getting more and more chatter in the front and I don't like chatter too much, but I'm sure hopefully with some we can sort that out," Hayden said. "My pace isn't that great, so I'm not just thrilled with how today went."
Then came Barbera at 338.3, and eighth fastest Valentino Rossi (337.4), before Stoner interrupted the Ducati parade of top speed times. Cardion AB Motoracing's Karel Abraham was fifth fastest on the radar gun. Abraham was the last of the prototypes in 12th place.
Yamaha's Ben Spies had a wasted session. The Texan tweaked his neck and damaged his good bike with an early front-end crash on a cold tire. After finishing the session 11th fastest, Spies took full responsibility. He said he went through the two right-handers, turns 12 and 13, "and just on the second lap, I don't think I had enough heat in the front tire - I was going to do a race simulation - and just lost the front and that was it. It was a pretty easy crash. Just when I hit the ground, when it flipped up it kinda grabbed my helmet and tried to take it off with it, so that made it interesting."
Fellow Texan Colin Edwards was the second fastest CRT machine to Power Electronics Aspar's Randy de Puniet (ART), and then only by .049 of a second.
Qatar MotoGP Practice Results:
1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:55.302
2. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:55.456
3. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:55.674
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:55.905
5. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:56.114
6. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:56.163
7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:56.402
8. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:56.535
9. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:56.751
10. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:56.771
11. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:57.030
14. Colin Edwards (BMW-Suter) 1:58.310