Laguna Seca : Free practice 3
Ducati's Casey Stoner upped the pace in the first Saturday outing at the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix today, topping the timesheets by 0.358s, having dominated proceedings on Friday.
The MotoGP World Championship leader set a new circuit
best lap record at Laguna Seca - beating Nicky Hayden's pole position best from 2005 – as he took a sizeable 0.632s off his own best Friday time.
Although Stoner ran off track without consequences at one stage, he has looked in excellent shape so far at the Californian circuit and is a good bet to secure his sixth win of the season in Sunday's race – especially if he continues his good form in qualifying later today.
Stoner's main World Championship rival Valentino Rossi, who crashed out last weekend in Germany thus losing further ground in the title race, suffered another crash in today's free practice run which resulted in a bruised left shoulder and a damaged little finger on his left hand. The Italian was ninth quickest in the session and 0.907s off Stoner's pace.
The man to get closest to Stoner's time was his compatriot Chris Vermuelen of Rizla Suzuki who enjoys riding at Laguna Seca and is aiming to improve on his fifth place finish in 2006, which he achieved as a rookie last year from his first dry pole position.
Just behind Vermeulen in this session were his team-mate John Hopkins & Honda Gresini's Marco Melandri, while in fifth place on the timesheet was World Champion Nicky Hayden – improving considerably with a time 0.929 quicker than he managed on day one.
Hayden's Repsol Honda colleague Dani Pedrosa was sixth while his American compatriot Colin Edwards (Fiat Yamaha) was seventh. Dunlop Yamaha Tech 3's Makoto Tamada was eighth fastest and with Rossi ninth Honda LCR's Carlos Checa completed the top ten.
Wildcard Roger Lee Hayden (11th) must receive a special mention as he lapped just ahead of fellow Kawasaki riders Anthony West (12th) and Randy de Puniet (13th) and while Loris Capirossi was down in 14th position he was still less than a second slower than Ducati colleague Stoner.
Although Alex Hofmann's temporary Pramac d'Antin replacement Chaz Davies was understandably again the slowest rider on track, he used his second hour on MotoGP machinery to good affect as he took well over a second off his best Friday effort.
DORNA / CAPSIS International