Ducati Marlboro’s Casey Stoner set the fastest time in Friday’s MotoGP combined practice sessions for Sunday’s Gran Premio Cinzano di San Marino e della Riviera di Rimini at the Misano circuit near the Italian coast of the Adriatic Sea.

Stoner’s best lap of 1:34.806 mins. is a new record on the slightly modified course-the second corner was changed-and it put him .418 secs. up on hometown hero Valentino Rossi.

Rossi, who lives in the nearby city of Tavullia, hopes to erase the disappointment of last year’s race. The pneumatic valve engine in Rossi’s M1 quit after three laps in front of his home crowd.

Rizla Suzuki’s Loris Capirossi qualified just behind Rossi in third. Capirossi is expected to announce the extension of his contract with the Rizla Suzuki team for 2009.

The first of the Michelin riders was Tech 3 Yamaha’s Colin Edwards in fourth. The Texan clocked his fastest time in the morning session when he finished second by .002 secs. to Stoner.

Edwards has been critical of Michelin since the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix and their performance wasn’t markedly better in the following race, the Czech Grand Prix. The French tire company rebounded in Misano, with no one voicing the scathing criticism that marked the previous races.

LCR Honda’s Randy de Puniet was fifth fastest, also on Michelins, and just in front of the second Rizla Suzuki of Chris Vermeulen. Vermeulen is also expected to seal his 2009 deal shortly.

Repsol Honda’s Nicky Hayden, still hobbled by the broken heal he suffered at the X Games a month ago, was 11th fastest, but still faster than his teammate Dani Pedrosa, who was 12th.

Kawasaki’s John Hopkins, the final American in the field, didn’t ride on Friday. Hopkins sat out the day with a displaced intercostal (rib) muscle.

Friday Combined Practice:

1. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:34.806

2. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:35.224

3. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 1:35.377

4. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:35.424

5. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 1:35.620

6. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 1:335.743

7. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:35.766

8. Alex de Angelis (Honda) 1:35.861

9. Shinya Nakano (Honda) 1:36.100

10. James Toseland (Yamaha) 1:36.105

11. Nicky Hayden (Honda) 1:36.189

12. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:36.219

13. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:36.356

14. Toni Elias (Ducati) 1:36.425

15. Sylvain Guintoli (Ducati) 1:36.619

16. Marco Melandri (Ducati) 1:37.096

17. Anthony West (Kawasaki) 1:37.929

MotoGP News

By Cycle News Staff

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