Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner shrugged off a front-end crash to record the third fastest time in MotoGP practice on a sunny afternoon at the Montmelo circuit north of Barcelona.The World Championship leader had ignored repeated warnings before the front end on his Desmosedici GP09 folded in the Circuit de Catalunya corner, one of the few constant radius left-handers on the heavily right-leaning track. Unhurt and unfazed, Stoner made it back to the pits for his back-up bike, which he rode to the third fastest time. Tops on the day were Fiat Yamaha teammates Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo."Quite happy to be honest," Stoner said of how his day went. "We had a small crash, but it was very small and something I understood why. Already on the lap before that I had a couple of times closing the front, not on this corner, but on other corners of the track. So the setting that we had wasn't feeling the best, but we needed to understand the rest of the track, how it was feeling." Stoner added that "the second bike is quite similar to what we had in the past races and we're still trying to solve, to discover this, but the new settings that we have on the bike from the test after Mugello seem to be working very well. We just need a little bit more time to really get them working properly."The Australian said that "Mugello and Catalunya are quite good to set a bike up, but you've got to use both. Mugello's got a lot of faster corners with the bumps, things like this. There's a lot of long corners here. There's also a lot of hard braking areas, so you can sort of get a good match for a bike in general at these two circuits. But it's only the circuits when you go to the really tight ones that you start to have maybe some issues. And so it's been working quite well at these circuits and it's been working well at every track. The only track we didn't really have a shot in the dry was in Jerez and we got the best result we've ever had there. We've got to be happy. In Japan we had the pace to win. In Le Mans we had the dry pace to win. We've got to be happy with the way I've been doing so far this year."Stoner set his fast time after crashing and on a bike that felt less comfortable."So I think with the other bike I would've gone faster and the gap would've been much closer."He finished .598 of a second behind Rossi.He and teammate Nicky Hayden were both using settings discovered by test rider Vito Guareschi at a post-Mugello test. The new set-up was transformative for Hayden, who finished a season best sixth in practice. And Stoner expressed confidence in being able to make further improvements."We've got a lot more corner speed," Stoner said. "We're able to finish the corner off in the apex a lot faster. It's something that Ducati's always kind of been lagging on the front, you have to use a lot of front brake. Now we don't have to use the same amount of front brake. It's maybe why I crashed. I may have to change my style a little bit. But, yeah, we're basically able to just run more corner speed and hit the apex a lot easier, a lot faster, so it was better."Stoner's strength has been corner entry, which isn't improved, "because the Ducati's always been very good on the brakes, so it's hard to really enter the corner so much faster. But once you get in the corner, the mid-turn on this track, long corners, T-1 and T-4 last year were a disaster for us. This year I'm only a 10th off on a bike that I didn't feel very comfortable with. So already we've made improvements I think from last year. Hopefully we can continue this tomorrow and do a few more laps and not crash."Stoner might have recorded a faster time if not for coming up on a touring Lorenzo. That left Stoner shaking his head because "Jorge [Lorenzo] was riding around in the middle of the track and didn't friggin' get out of the way. You know, if you're on your out lap you check if people are coming. But he had no idea anybody was doing anything other than himself."

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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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