Honda continued their dominance of preseason testing in the opening MotoGP practice session at the Losail International Circuit.
Casey Stoner ended the session over 0.6s clear of Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa. Stoner consistently lapped faster than the rest of the field as he sent an ominous warning shot to his competitors as he seeks a second world title.
While Stoner was in superb form the same could not be said of Pedrosa. The Spaniard set his fastest time at the end of his opening stint and spent the rest of the evening lapping at a much slower pace. It will be interesting to see if he was working on setup options for over the course of the weekend but one way or another it was far from impressive from the Spaniard.
Pedrosa’s compatriot, Hector Barbera, however was the surprise package of the session. The Aspar Ducati rider was third faster having availed of following Nicky Hayden on his quick lap. Barbera spent the rest of the session in the 1m57’s so it is unlikely that he will be in a competitive position for the rest of the weekend.
Marco Simoncelli continued his strong preseason form to register the fourth fastest time of the evening. The Italian completed three stints with each run involving a series of 1m56’s. His consistency was impressive and he should be a contender over the course of the weekend. Simoncelli, a former 250cc champion, struggled at times in his rookie MotoGP season but over the second half of last year and preseason testing he has clearly found the magic formula for riding the 800cc machines.
Most of the attention, as ever was focused on Valentino Rossi. The Italian will make his Ducati debut this weekend and he can be very satisfied with his fifth place from opening practice. He got progressively faster as the session wore on and was just 0.038s adrift of Simoncelli at the end of the 45 minute session.
Ben Spies was the leading Yamaha rider with the American outpacing world champion Jorge Lorenzo who struggled for pace throughout the evening. The fortunes of Lorenzo, and how he deals with Spies, will be one of the main storylines from the opening races of the year. Andrea Dovizioso finished the session with the eighth fastest time. The Italian set his time early in the session, similarly to Pedrosa.
Randy De Puniet and Colin Edwards were ninth and tenth with Hayden 11th for Ducati. It was a tough session for Moto2 champion Toni Elias with the Spaniard slowest of the runners and 3.3s off the pace. He has struggled in winter testing but it was ominous that even the likes of Karel Abraham were considerably faster than him. Elias has had numerous issues readjusting to like in MotoGP and it would be surprising to see him continue to struggle.
Cal Crutchlow overcame his testing crash that led to him losing part of his little finger to set the 14th fastest time, just ahead of Abraham. The Englishman had a series of ragged moments but should be satisfied with his opening day as a Grand Prix rider.
For full results from this session click here