Stoner lights up Qatar Grand Prix with fastest time

AFP , DOHA

Sun, Apr 11, 2010 - Page 19

Australia’s Casey Stoner set the fastest time in practice for the season-opening Qatar Grand Prix, which will be staged under floodlights today.

The Ducati rider, who is seeking his fourth successive win at the Losail track, clocked 1 minute, 55.5 seconds, just over half a second ahead of the rest of the 17-strong field late on Friday.

Stoner was the only rider under the 1 minute, 56 second barrier.

“Everything started off very well; we got a quite good feeling with the bike early on,” he said. “When we changed the setting I actually did not prefer the feeling of it, but the lap time was better.”

“Now we’re trying to get a bit more balance in the bike to get a little better understanding of it, and still be able to do those lap times,” the 24 year-old said.

Stoner said there would be further work ahead of today’s season-opening race.

“We’re quite happy with where we are at the moment, but I believe everybody will catch up over the weekend, so we definitely need to stay on top of our game and try and improve our set-up a little more,” he said.

Spain’s Jorge Lorenzo, on a Yamaha, who said prior to the weekend that he may not be at full fitness because he continues to recover from a hand injury, set the second-best time of the hour-long session with 1 minute, 56.026 seconds.

His teammate and reigning world champion Valentino Rossi, was third on the timesheet on board his factory M1 prototype. The Italian, who will aim to get his title defense off to a winning start, timed in at just two-thousandths of a second off Lorenzo.

Lorenzo said he had been quite happy with his hand.

“I tried riding for the first time without the extra hand protection and I was okay,” the Spaniard said. “I felt good on the bike and my thumb didn’t really hurt, it was a lot better than at the test.”

Rossi said he had expected to be faster.

“The lap time is not bad, but it could be better,” the 31-year-old said. “The conditions are much better than during the test, it’s warmer and a lot less humid so I’m happy about that.”