Casey Stoner set the pace in Free Practice 2, almost four-tenths ahead of his nearest rival.
The second superstar in the Repsol triad, Dani Pedrosa has closed the gap somewhat on his teammate and rival, demonstrating a faster pace on sections of the Qatar circuit.
Repsol Honda’s Casey Stoner kept his name atop the MotoGP timesheet after Friday’s Free Practice 2 at Qatar. The Australian continued to place his name up front early, setting the session’s fastest lap on only his third turn of the circuit. Stoner’s Repsol Honda teammate, Dani Pedrosa, followed once again in the second spot, though cut the gap from yesterday to 0.397. Yamaha’s Ben Spies rounded out the provisional front row.
Stoner’s performance was once again dominant. Analyzing the split times, however, shows Pedrosa lapping with a quicker pace on half the track sections. The front running Repsol duo are the only riders to dip under the 1’56 mark. Honda’s quickshifting gearbox has been cited as the HRC edge coming into the season opener. The third Respol rider, Andrea Dovizioso, was fourth-fastest during the session while HRC-backed Marco Simoncelli finished seventh on the Gresini mount.
Spies marked a solid result for the Yamahas, with teammate and defending champ, Jorge Lorenzo, completing the top five. It was a good session for the satellite Yamahas as well, with Colin Edwards moving up to sixth and GP rookie Cal Crutchlow bolting into 10th. The British rider is fighting through a rough GP entry, having lost the tip of his pinkie in a get-off earlier this week.
Unable to improve on yesterday’s times were Valentino Rossi and Hector Barbera, the duo in the nine and eight spots via the combined practice times. The Doctor went backwards – though less than a tenth – with his Ducati still noticeably unsettled on turn in, the primary criticism of the Ducati in preseason testing. Mapfre Aspar’s Barbera was more than three-tenths slower on Friday. Ducati’s Nicky Hayden did improve on Thursday, but still lingers outside the top-10 in 11th.
Pramac Racing’s Randy de Puniet dropped to 12th, followed by Gresini Honda’s Hiroshi Aoyama in 13th. Suzuki’s Alvaro Bautista still languishes back in 14th on the sheet, but the Spaniard did manage to knock 1.7 seconds off his Thursday best.
The unique four-day format at the Losail circuit extends the practice sessions to three, with an unusual Free Practice 3 set for later Friday evening. An hour-long qualifying session will commence on Saturday, before the Sunday race finale under the desert lights.
2011 MotoGP Qatar Free Practice 2 Combined Results:
1. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1’55.457
2. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1’55.854
3. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1’56.116
4. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1’56.172
5. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1’56.220
6. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1’56.259
7. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 1’56.378
8. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 1’56.421
9. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1’56.479
10. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1’56.518
11. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1’56.626
12. Randy de Puniet (Ducati) 1’56.668
13. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 1’56.790