MONTEREY, CA, JULY 23 - Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner led the 17-rider field in first practice for Sunday's ninth round of the MotoGP World Championship, the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
The 2007 winner lapped the 2.238-mile track in 1:21.699 mins. on a day of sunshine and moderate temperatures on the Monterey Peninsula.
The Australian's path to the top was started with just under 27 minutes to run when he moved up to fourth place and .638 secs. behind Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, who was in the pits at the time. On the next lap Stoner jumped to second and closed the gap to .110 secs. The following lap was nearly half a second faster and put Stoner into first with a .329 secs. cushion on Lorenzo, who was just heading back to the track.
Lorenzo closed to within .007 secs. of Stoner with just over 20 minutes to run, but a lap later Stoner improved to 1:22.133.
Then the order would remain more or less stagnant until the final five minutes. With 1:52 mins. to run Stoner outdid himself, lapping in 1:21.699 mins. Though he'd do two more laps, that one would stand up as the best.
Lorenzo came at him with just over a minute remaining when he clocked his best, a 1:21.932. But the Majorcan couldn't back it up and had to settle for second at a deficit of .233 secs.
Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso's last lap of 1:22.225 mins. earned him the third fastest time just ahead of teammate Dani Pedrosa (1:22.559).
Ben Spies was the first American in fifth. Riding with a fresh motor, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider finished at 1:22.640 mins., less than a tenth of a second off Pedrosa. Lurking just behind was Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi (1:22.660), who was putting his mending right leg to the test on the physically demanding 11-turn circuit.
Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden was just behind Rossi and on the same tenth at Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards, who was eighth fastest.
San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli was ninth, just ahead of the Laguna Seca first-timers.
The Pramac Racing Ducatis of Aleix Espargaro and Mika Kallio were tenth and eleventh, respectively. It was the first on track time for both; Kallio, who made his MotoGP debut in 2009, missed last year's race due to injury.
Two more rookies-San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli and Pagina Amarillas Ducati's Hector Barber-followed. Simoncelli had the rougher day, crashing in turn three on his third lap.
Alex de Angelis rode the Interwetten MotoGP Honda to the 14th fastest time, with the Rizla Suzukis of first-timer Alvaro Bautista and veteran Loris Capirossi, next.
Roger Lee Hayden was 17th in his first ride on the LCR Honda in place of the injured Randy de Puniet.
1. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:21.699
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:21.932
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:22.225
4. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:22.559
5. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:22.640
6. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:22.660
7. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:22.902
8. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:22.971
9. Marco Melandri (Honda) 1:23.021
10. Aleix Espargaro (Ducati) 1:23.693
11. Mika Kallio (Ducati) 1:23.825
12. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:24.002
13. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1:24.326
14. Alex de Angelis (Honda) 1:24.615
15. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:24.710
16. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 1:25.031
17. Roger Lee Hayden (Honda) 1:25.432