INDIANAPOLIS, IN, AUG 27 - It was a good day for the Ducati Marlboro team, with Casey Stoner finishing first and teammate Nicky Hayden third, despite a crash, in the opening session for Sunday's third annual Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix.
Stoner finished the session with a lap of one minute and 40.884 seconds, a time that put him up by .225 of a second on Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo. The Australian was using the newest 42mm Öhlins front fork, while Hayden stuck with the 2010 fork, which are 48mm.
Riding with an Iron Man-replica helmet, Lorenzo was the most consistent rider, finishing with more laps in the 1:41s than anyone else. His best was a 1:41.109.
Hayden was third fastest, despite tucking the front end and crashing in the turn-14 left-hander late in the hour. He made it back out for one final flying lap, but couldn't improve his time.
The top three riders all had their strengths: Hayden was quickest in first split, Stoner was fastest in the second, Lorenzo in the third, and Stoner in the fourth.
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa moved into fourth just as time was about to expire. His lap of 1:41.421 put him just ahead of Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi, who had a lackluster session. The reigning World Champion was languishing midpack when he moved from ninth to fifth in his final lap.
That dropped Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards (1:41.664) to sixth, one of his better opening days in some time.
"It went alright," Edwards said. "Bike feels good. We're just kind of playing off what we had in Brno."
Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso was seventh in front of Monster Yamaha's Ben Spies. Spies had run near the front for most of the session, then fell with about six minutes to go.
The session began with Hayden going to the top of the list with his fourth lap in the eighth minute. Simoncelli took him down a spot, then Spies went to the top in the ninth minute.
Lorenzo moved into second with his fourth lap, slotting in behind Spies and in front of Simoncelli. Hayden was fourth in front of Pedrosa and Rossi. Stoner was down in 10th and Edwards 14th.
In the 10th minute, Hayden went back on top on lap five, now with Dovizioso on the boil and moving into second, though not for long. Spies went to second in the 11th minute and only .001 of a second behind Hayden.
Hayden upped the pace on his next lap and opened the gap by a 10th on Spies with his sixth lap and a time of 1:42.303. The Repsol Honda boys, Pedrosa and Dovizioso, were next, then the Fiat Yamaha teammates, Lorenzo and Rossi. Edwards wasn't making progress.
Stoner went from seventh to first in the 13th minute as the order at the top changed dramatically. Stoner's 1:41.772 put him .206 of a second up on Dovizioso, with Spies next, then Lorenzo, Hayden, Pedrosa and Rossi.
Lorenzo took Stoner down by .124 of a second after about 14 minutes, the time continually coming down. Lorenzo holds the race record lap time of 1:40.152, with Pedrosa lapping at 1:39.730, to take last year's pole.
Spies was on a flyer with red helmets signaling fastest segment times for all three segments. But Spies couldn't maintain the pace in the fourth segment and finished his ninth lap third fastest and .228 of a second down on Lorenzo, with Stoner second. Spies had three more red helmets on the next lap, but pitted rather than finish the lap.
Edwards made a significant move just after the 20-minute mark, going from 16th to ninth on his eighth lap, then to eighth with his next lap. Two laps later and he was up to fifth place on his 11th lap and within four seconds of teammate Spies in third.
As the session headed towards the midpoint, Hayden was on the boil. His first split was three-tenths of a second faster than Lorenzo, but the next two splits were slower, and he didn't improve his time. Halfway in and he was fourth behind Lorenzo, Stoner, and Spies. Dovi was fifth and Edwards sixth, putting three Americans in the top six.
Spies was also on a flyer with the fastest time in the first two splits, only to lose out in the final two. He remained in third, then fell to fourth when Dovizioso topped him by .075 of a second with his 15th lap.
Lorenzo strengthened his position on the 13th lap, his 1:41.398 lap putting him .352 of a second faster than Stoner. His next lap was faster by one-thousandth of a second.
Edwards leapfrogged Hayden to take over fifth with his 14th lap, Hayden now sixth in front of Rossi and Pedrosa. There were 22 minutes left and crunch time was coming.
Lorenzo knew that. His 16th lap was faster again, by .051 of a second, so then he was .404 clear of Stoner with Dovi, Spies, Edwards, and Hayden covered by .073 of a second.
Just as the session reached the two-thirds mark, Edwards leapt from fifth to third and only .047 of a second down on Stoner, while Lorenzo continued to pace the field. Stoner had two red helmets - his second split time was only .049 up on Lorenzo - and was again up at the third interval, but by .0025 of a second. Stoner sped down the straight and cut the gap to Lorenzo to .017 of a second, still second fastest.
The next lap was the fastest of the session. With 17 minutes to go Stoner lapped at 1:40.884 minutes to put him .462 of a second clear of Lorenzo. Hayden went into third, at .262 of a second from Lorenzo, with Edwards fourth, then Dovi, Spies, and Rossi.
The Ducatis were flying. Both Stoner and Hayden were faster than Stoner at the first split. Hayden slowed in the second split, but Stoner was still at it and nearly the same in the third split. The lap didn't improve his time; he was off by about a 10th. Hayden was faster and only .059 of a second behind Lorenzo.
Hayden lost the front end and crashed in turn 14 with a little over 13 minutes remaining while in third. He fell on his left side and tumbled, favoring his left arm as he walked away. The question was whether he'd damaged the left wrist.
Spies moved into fourth with his 23rd lap just prior to the 10-minute mark, but Pedrosa took him down soon after and improved with his next lap.
Now it was Lorenzo again heating up. His 20th lap was his fastest, but he couldn't improve with his 21st.
With just under seven minutes to go, Rossi was down in eighth and 1.228 of a second behind Stoner, and the slowest of the four Yamahas. That would certainly change.
Spies lost the front end and crashed in turn six with about six minutes to run while in sixth. Not long after Edwards moved into fifth.
Hayden went back out with about three minutes to go. He'd have one more shot at improving on or maintaining third place.
Lorenzo and Stoner were both now on flyers, Stoner showing consistency at speed while Lorenzo was trying to claim bragging rights for the first session. His lap wasn't good enough to improve his time, but he was still second while Rossi was down in ninth and not making up any ground.
As time was about to expire, Pedrosa moved into fourth and had enough time for one more lap. Lorenzo would have one more chance, as well.
Rossi completed his lap after the flag and moved from ninth to fifth, behind Stoner, Lorenzo, Hayden and Pedrosa, and in front of Edwards and Spies. Dovizioso moved Spies down to eighth with his final lap.
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:40.884
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:41.109
3. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:41.405
4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:41.421
5. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:41.263
6. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:41.664
7. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:41.683
8. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:41.772
9. Aleix Espargaro (Ducati) 1:41.992
10. Marco Melandri (Honda) 1:42.147