Saturday October 27, 2012
Hometown hero Stoner lays down marker in Australian MotoGP
PHILLIP ISLAND (Australia): Home hero Casey Stoner dominated practice in front of record crowds yesterday as he chases a sixth consecutive Australian MotoGP victory this weekend in his farewell season.
The Repsol Honda rider, recovering from serious right leg injuries in a crash in August, was fastest by just under a second as the bikes took to the high-speed and blustery circuit ahead of tomorrow’s race.
Stoner again mastered his home track and was the only rider to go under one minute and 30 seconds in posting a best lap time of one minute 29.999 seconds, ahead of Spanish world championship contenders and Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa (1:30.884) and Jorge Lorenzo (1:31.005).
Stoner is battling the effects of recent surgery on torn ligaments and fractures to his ankle, tibia and fibula he suffered in a crash during qualifying for the Indianapolis MotoGP in mid-August.
The Aussie’s hopes of defending his world title were ruined by the track mishap and he is out of contention, well back in third spot on the championship standing with two races left this season.
Lorenzo leads Pedrosa by 23 points in the championship and can take his second MotoGP world title with victory on Sunday.
Stoner’s final Australian MotoGP appearance is drawing huge crowds down to Phillip Island with the highest-ever Friday attendance at the track - almost 30,000 packed the stands. He was fastest in both practice sessions.
“I’ve been improving every day, but today helped me with some confidence,” said Stoner, who walks with a noticeable limp.
“I’ve got to move on this track a lot less than (his comeback race) in Japan and Malaysia (last week), so I’ve had a lot less issues with the ankle on the bike.”
Lorenzo, runner-up behind Pedrosa at the last three MotoGPs, found the notorious windy Phillip Island conditions difficult to adjust to after the Malaysian tempest last weekend.
Pedrosa said he was looking to a dry track today to close the gap on teammate Stoner. — AFP
Free practice session: 1. Casey Stoner (Aus-Honda) 1:29.999, 2. Dani Pedrosa (ESP-Honda) at 0.885, 3. Jorge Lorenzo (Spa-Yamaha) at 1.006, 4. Cal Crutchlow (Bri-Yamaha) at 1.368, 5. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita-Yamaha) at 1.459, 6. Alvaro Bautista (Spa-Honda) at 1.617, 7. Stefan Bradl (Ger-Honda) at 1.703, 8. Valentino Rosi (Ita-Ducati) at 2.031, 9. Nicky Hayden (US-Ducati) at 2.655, 10. Randy De Puniet (Fra-ART) at 2.675, 11. Hector Barbera (Spa-Ducati) at 2.707, 12. Karel Abraham (Cze-Ducati) at 2.745.