Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner finished both practice sessions with the fastest time on the first day of practice for Sunday's French Grand Prix at Le Mans.The winner of the opening race in Qatar finished the morning session with a time of 1:34.133 mins., then lowered it to 1:33.782 mins. on his 13th tour of the 2.6-mile stop-and-go track two hours southwest of Paris in the afternoon. The gap from first to second increased and the rider in second changed. When the day ended, Stoner finished with a cushion of .404 secs. on San Carlo Honda Gresini's Marco Simoncelli.Simoncelli improved his pace considerably from the morning to the afternoon, bettering his lap time by over .8 sec. That allowed him to rise from fourth in the morning to second in the afternoon.He moved ahead of third fastest Dani Pedrosa, the Repsol Honda rider the only one in the 17-rider field not to improve from the morning to the afternoon, and Andrea Dovizioso, the third member of the Repsol Honda team who dropped from third to sixth.Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden was fourth fastest and first non-Honda. The Kentuckian took advantage of changes to the machine following a test after the previous race in Estoril to take first Ducati honors. Teammate Valentino Rossi was down in ninth place, just in front of Yamaha's Ben Spies.Spies' teammate Jorge Lorenzo, the championship leader, was fifth on the day and .877 secs. off the pace of Stoner. Dovi was next, then came Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards in the team's home race. Not only is his team based in France, but the race is sponsored by team sponsor Monster Energy.The team is operating under a black cloud after it was alleged that Edwards' crew chief Guy Coulon would face an involuntary manslaughter charge for an incident at a toll booth on a French highway where a motorcyclist died.The allegation is that Coulon inadvertently backed up over a motorcyclist while driving one of the Tech 3 transporters. The team has yet to issue a statement.San Carlo Honda Gresini's Hiroshi Aoyama was just behind Edwards, with Rossi only .007 sec. off Aoyama's time and .010 in front of tenth fastest Spies.

Combined Practice Times:

1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:33.782

2. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1:34.186

3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:34.431

4. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:34.652

5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:34.569

6. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:34.705

7. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:34.939

8. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1:34.959

9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:34.966

10. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:34.976

 

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By Cycle News Staff

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