Casey Stoner proved unstoppable in the opening practice session of the 2010 MotoGP season under the floodlights at Losail.
Ducati rider Stoner has won the last three Qatar Grands Prix and was quickest in the final preseason test of the winter at the track last month. He only allowed arch-rival Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) a brief moment of glory at the start of this evening's session, and then beat Rossi's early benchmark by 0.6sec, 12 minutes into practice.
That put the top two 2sec clear of their rivals at the time, and Stoner then went faster still on his next run – getting down to 1m55.500sec and pulling 0.9sec ahead of even Rossi. While Stoner came close to beating his benchmark several times on subsequent outings, Rossi kept chipping away by a few fractions of a second but could only get within half a second of the Ducati.
Then, in the final two minutes, the MotoGP champion lost his second place, too, deposed by his teammate Jorge Lorenzo, who slipped ahead by just 0.002sec. The Spaniard then fell on his next lap, but immediately got up and appeared to have suffered no further damage to his injured right hand.
Nicky Hayden surged to fourth on the second Ducati, picking up huge amounts of speed late in the session, having earlier been near the foot of the times. He won a late battle for fourth with top Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso.
LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet was third for a while and only dropped back to sixth – ahead of factory rider Dani Pedrosa, who spent a long time in the midfield before edging up to seventh.
Ben Spies and Colin Edwards were eighth and ninth for Tech 3 Yamaha, followed by top 250cc graduate Alvaro Bautista in 10th. His Suzuki teammate Loris Capirossi was 12th after suffering a low-side under braking 20 minutes from the end. The veteran Italian was unhurt.
Pos Rider Team Time Gap
1. Casey Stoner Ducati 1m55.500s
2. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m56.026s + 0.526s
3. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m56.028s + 0.528s
4. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m56.793s + 1.293s
5. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m56.944s + 1.444s
6. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m57.031s + 1.531s
7. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m57.133s + 1.633s
8. Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha 1m57.147s + 1.647s
9. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m57.302s + 1.802s
10. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 1m57.436s + 1.936s
11. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 1m57.447s + 1.947s
12. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1m57.472s + 1.972s
13. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 1m57.758s + 2.258s
14. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 1m57.921s + 2.421s
15. Marco Melandri Gresini Honda 1m58.035s + 2.535s
16. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 1m58.045s + 2.545s
17. Hiroshi Aoyama Interwetten Honda 1m58.082s + 2.582s