PHILLIP ISLAND, AUSTRALIA, OCT 15 - Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner finished a miserable first day of practice for Sunday's Australian Grand Prix with the second fastest time.The misery was from the weather. Rain began overnight and continued well into the afternoon. Flooding caused practice to be delayed for two hours. Then, not long after practice began, the rain stopped and the winds came up, winds so fierce that it was blowing riders clear across the track."I mean, honestly, the last ten minutes was a waste of time even being out there," Stoner said after finishing the day behind Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo. "You wouldn't learn anything. All you would do is destroy a set of tires, which I can still use. As it could be a wet weekend and some conditions like this, you destroy a set every session, nobody's going to have any left for the race. So personally I think it's a bit better to save a set of tires rather than destroy it."The conditions changed dramatically throughout the hour. First the track was completely dry, then a dry line formed in some corners, then more corners and the gusting winds wreaked havoc on the riders. The conditions were so unpredictable that Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Ben Spies only did three laps. Stoner took solace from knowing that he was consistently among the leaders in every condition."We were pretty happy with the way things went, progressed," he began, "but at the same time we really learned nothing today. I don't think anybody would have. The conditions were pretty bad. The beginning of the session it was wet and very windy, so it was hard to get any feeling. As the session went on it dried so quickly because of that wind, and just gave us no consistency, because we would change the bike and when we come back out the conditions would be different to what we tested in before. So every time we went out the track was just throwing something different at us. And yeah, it was pretty much impossible to get a good direction."He continued. "Friday's Friday. I mean it's almost nothing to go by. People can be at the bottom of the ladder on Friday and have no problems and not be in trouble at all, so we're just going to have to see how this weather goes and see if we can get some consistency. If it's going to be wet, it needs to be rain for a whole session to get some understanding of what settings. And if it's going to be dry, dry for a whole session. But this 50-50 stuff nobody's really learning a lot."The most perilous wind conditions were in the final Swan Corner, a third gear left leading onto the 900-meter Gardner Straight."The strange this was coming out of the last turn and you come over that rise and your front wheel will get light," he said. "It felt like it was just wanting to push to the outside of the track and cross up in the opposite direction to what it was at the end of the straight. It was a little bit difficult. The wind was reasonably consistent, I will say, throughout the session. But a little bit less towards the end there. I'd say the strength of it was quite consistent. The problem is when you started getting gusts. One lap it's terrible, the next lap it's not too bad. But there seemed to be a consistent wind speed there, so it wasn't too bad."

There was also an issue with the scarcity of right hand corners; there are only three, all of which should be exited under hard acceleration."Unfortunately, we're not accelerating on the edge of the tire, so we're not getting any temperature there and that's the worst thing. On the left side it's not too bad, but on the right we can't get any temperature in the tire. And with it being windy as well, it makes it a little bit nerve-wracking on a fast track like this. So that's a little bit difficult, but I'd say the track temperature and the air temperature as well as the wind is probably the most difficult part."

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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.

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