Casey Stoner - Photo Credit: MotoGP.com

Casey Stoner - Photo Credit: MotoGP.com


Casey Stoner
laid down a marker once again to the rest of the field by topping the first practice session at Motegi. The Australian is the overwhelming favourite to win this year's World Championship and put himself firmly in the frame for this weekend's race too, clocking 1m47 laps with apparent ease.

The series leader eventually got down to a 1:47.289 on his final lap to pull out a quarter of a second over Andrea Dovizioso who backed up his teammate in second.

The surprise name splitting the Repsol Hondas was that of Nicky Hayden who finished an excellent third for Ducati. The American hasn't troubled the top three in any session since finishing on the podium at Jerez but will have handed the Ducati squad a major boost on a circuit they won at last year.

Dani Pedrosa was next up in fourth after taking a harmless trip through the gravel early in the session. Marco Simoncelli had a more serious excursion as he lost the front end of the Gresini Honda as he tipped it into turn nine, the very corner Pedrosa broke his collarbone last year. Thankfully for the Italian, there was no great damage done and he returned on his spare bike to take sixth, just behind world champion Jorge Lorenzo.

Colin Edwards managed to split the factory Yamahas after outpacing Ben Spies in the opening session, the fellow countrymen finishing seventh and eighth respectively. Hector Barbera rounded off a strong opening session in ninth while Valentino Rossi completed the top ten.

Cal Crutchlow finished 14th quickest as he got his first taste of Motegi while Honda test riders Kousuke Akiyoshi and Shinichi Ito, no strangers to the circuit ended up in 17th and 18th. They did at least have a rider behind them though as Damian Cudlin brought up the rear on his MotoGP debut.

 

Grand Prix of Japan: Free Practice 1 Classification:

Pos Rider Nat Bike Team Time/Gap
1 Casey Stoner AUS Honda Repsol Honda Team 1:47.289
2 Andrea Dovizioso ITA Honda Repsol Honda Team +0.277
3 Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Ducati Team +0.443
4 Dani Pedrosa SPA Honda Repsol Honda Team +0.547
5 Jorge Lorenzo SPA Yamaha Yamaha Factory Racing +0.623
6 Marco Simoncelli ITA Honda San Carlo Honda Gresini +0.653
7 Colin Edwards USA Yamaha Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +0.880
8 Ben Spies USA Yamaha Yamaha Factory Racing +0.908
9 Hector Barbera SPA Ducati Mapfre Aspar Team MotoGP +1.117
10 Valentino Rossi ITA Ducati Ducati Team +1.378
11 Hiroshi Aoyama JAP Honda San Carlo Honda Gresini +1.487
12 Alvaro Bautista SPA Suzuki Rizla Suzuki MotoGP +1.591
13 Randy de Puniet FRA Ducati Pramac Racing Team +1.603
14 Cal Crutchlow GBR Yamaha Monster Yamaha Tech 3 +2.096
15 Toni Elias SPA Honda LCR Honda MotoGP +2.126
16 Karel Abraham CZE Ducati Cardion AB Motoracing +2.524
17 Kousuke Akiyoshi (WC) JAP Honda LCR Honda MotoGP +3.399
18 Shinichi Ito (WC) JAP Honda Honda Racing Team +4.172
19 Damian Cudlin AUS Ducati Pramac Racing Team +5.929