Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner set the pace in the first ever shortened Friday night practice session at the season-opening Grand Prix of Qatar.The 2007 World Champion lapped the 3.34-mile Losail International Circuit with a time of 1:57.053 mins. in the 45-minute session, which began under the lights at 10:30 p.m. local time. The session was the only one on the day, one of the cost concessions the teams made in the current economic climate.Stoner's best effort came on the 12th of his 17 laps and no one came very close. But neither did Stoner come close to his opening practice time from 2008; tonight's time was off by about 1.2 secs. Part of that can be traced to the new spec Bridgestone tires and part to losing 15 minutes of track time."We've made a good start today and I'm happy because the bike feeling was really good straight away," he said. "The settings we brought from Jerez seem to be working well here too. We still need to change a couple of things to get more grip from the rear. A lot of that is due to the track conditions being really dusty, but we just need to take our time and try to get it set up better tomorrow. Hopefully, the track will clean up too."Stoner's lap was .386 secs. faster than the best of 2008 World Champion Valentino Rossi on the Fiat Yamaha. Rossi lapped in 1:57.439 mins., after which he declared himself content."I'm happy, just, not very, because anyway the lap time is not fantastic because...so with ten degrees more is a lot more comfortable ride the bike, a lot less at the limit," he said comparing it to the test here a month ago. "You understand what's happened with the tire."Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards made a slight adjustment to his steering angle which propelled him to third on the night."We played around with the front-end mainly because I had a few issues at the last test in Jerez with movement on the front tire whenever I tried to really push hard," the Texan said.Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo, who holds the pole position record of 1:53.927 from last year, finished the session fourth."We had a few problems, mainly in the hard braking areas where I didn't have such a great feeling with the front tire, but apart from that it's been OK," he said.San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alex de Angelis was the surprise first Honda. Surprising because he's on a satellite team spec RC212V rather than the factory bikes ridden by teammate Toni Elias and the Repsol Honda team. De Angelis was .18 secs. off Lorenzo's pace with only .016 on Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi.Pramac Racing's Mika Kallio was the second fastest Ducati, coming seventh, one better than Andrea Dovizioso in his debut on the Repsol Honda.Dovi's teammate Dani Pedrosa arrived on Friday and declared himself fit to race, but it didn't show on the track. The Spaniard, still not in racing fitness after surgery a month ago following a crash at the test here, clocked the slowest of the 18 times, some 4.382 secs. off the pace.Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden had a session he'd rather forget. In his first ride in the red and white, Hayden struggled to 13th with various machine troubles. First came a sensor issue on his ‘A' bike, then a clutch problem."It was not how I actually hoped to start the season," he said.

MotoGP Practice:1. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:57.0532. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:57.6403. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:57.8354. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:58.2725. Alex de Angelis (Honda) 1:58.4526. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:58.4687. Mike Kallio (Ducati) 1:58.4998. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:58.5069. Marco Melandri (Kawasaki) 1:58.75710. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 1:58.77111. James Toseland (Yamaha) 1:58.85012. Toni Elias (Honda) 1:59.09413. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:59.15814. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 1:59.34815. Yuki Takahashi (Honda) 1:59.43716. Sete Gibernau (Ducati) 2:00.59517. Nicole Canepa (Ducati) 2:00.59718. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:01.435

MotoGP Headlines

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.

Comments