MONTEREY, CA, JULY 18: Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner was under his own lap record this morning and further under it this afternoon. And, when the day was over, and Stoner was by far the fastest, the rest of the field realized they had some catching up to do if they were hoping to challenge the world champion in Sunday’s Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix. Stoner said his package this year “is definitely a step up. I’m feeling a lot better than even last year," when he won the race. "It’d be nice to think we can keep it going as we have in these past races. But you never know what tomorrow holds, so we’re just going to do what we can. “So far, we’re pretty confident with the setting of the bike. It seems to be working well. We definitely struggled a little bit in this afternoon’s session. We had one tire that we expected to be quite useful, but unfortunately just couldn’t get it work with our bike. It was making it shake and shudder all over the place. I didn’t do any more than two laps at a time just trying to fix the thing. And then we just changed to a different style tire and it nearly fixed the problem. “So it was a big relief, because we weren’t too sure if it was the track conditions being warmer that it was making the bike react worse, but we ended up using the harder compound tire that we had, so that this was a good step, because if we can use it already in these conditions, then we’re assured for the race.” The track was much warmer in the afternoon than in the morning, and also warmer than in the second free practice a year ago. “I suppose it makes the engines run a little bit better with the cooler air temperature, but that’s about it,” he said. Stoner said the Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca track was grippier than last year and that there was “a little more traction off line as well. I remember last year as soon as you got off line it was really loose, and it still is to a certain degree, but just a lesser level. And on line it’s probably a little bit more grippy as well, but other than that I think maybe the bumps have gotten a little bit worse in a couple of points. There’s, just before you head up the hill, there’s quite a bad bump there from all the cars I think going through and bottoming out and taking a bit of tarmac with it. But other than that, everything else seems quite similar to last year.” The only blight on the afternoon session was a run-in Stoner had with San Carlo Honda Gresini’s Alex de Angelis. Stoner had passed de Angelis heading into the Corkscrew when the Italian reacted. Stoner said the red mist came over de Angelis when he realized who it was, and “he let off the brakes and he completely screwed the corner up for himself, just to make sure he screwed me up. So, I was a little pissed off. So I just tried to cut back underneath him…again he just cut me off completely and it was just an immature display of riding really.” The dangerous part wasn’t televised. It was “when he tried to cut my nose off, I think it was pretty damn close. I very nearly crashed over the top of him then. And then straight after that he pulled to the inside of that corner. And it was just obvious that he was out there to get me. And it’s really unnecessary when you’re running at these speeds.” Stoner hadn’t spoken to de Angelis, but he did speak to the safety commission immediately after. “They saw it immediately and they also watched the part that wasn’t on TV, which everybody missed; that’s right when he cut me off, which is the actual dangerous part,” he said. “Going into the dangerous part people always like to try and stuff other people up sometimes. But when he really tried to chop my nose off purposely, I think that’s where I had to draw the line and do something about it. I mean, we’ve raced each other for years and my first race ever race in grand prixs he tried to hit my front brake lever as he was coming past. “So we haven’t had the best relationship from the beginning. But I suppose during those in between these years, we’ve plenty of respect for each other. So I don’t know what wrong and where it’s gone. I hope we can sort it out and leave racing to racing.”

MotoGP News

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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