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Stoner sets early Qatar pace

MOTO GP: World champion Casey Stoner threw down the gauntlet to his rivals in impressive style on Thursday when he topped the first free practice for the season-opening Grand Prix of Qatar.

By Agence France-Presse

Friday 6 April 2012, 10:02AM

The Australian Honda rider clocked 1min 56.474sec to edge out former champion Jorge Lorenzo on a Yamaha with Ducati's Nicky Hayden almost half a second off the pace in third.

Seven-time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi, who has won this race three times, endured a miserable start to his season, managing just the 10th best time, over a second behind Stoner.

Stoner will start as favourite for Sunday's race to be held under the Losail circuit floodlights having won four times in the elite class in six visits.

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First free practice times:

1. Casey Stoner (AUS/Honda) 1:56.474, 2. Jorge Lorenzo (ESP/Yamaha) at 0.174, 3. Nicky Hayden (USA/Ducati) 0.450, 4. Ben Spies (USA/Yamaha) 0.508, 5. Dani Pedrosa (ESP/Honda) 0.656, 6. Cal Crutchlow (GBR/Yamaha) 0.921, 7. Alvaro Bautista (ESP/Suzuki) 1.038, 8. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA/Honda) 1.073, 9. Hector Barbera (ESP/Ducati) 1.438, 10. Valentino Rossi (ITA/Ducati) 1.440

11. Karel Abraham (CZE/Ducati) 1.465, 12. Stefan Bradl (GER/Honda) 2.460, 13. Randy de Puniet (FRA/Aprilia) 3.511, 14. Colin Edwards (USA/Suter-BMW) 3.570, 15. Michele Pirro (ITA/FTR-Honda) 3.848, 16. Aleix Espargaro (Aprilia) 4.246, 17. Ivan Silva (ESP/Kawasaki-FTR) 4.664, 18. Mattia Pasini (ITA/Aprilia) 4.787, 19. Yonny Hernandez (COL/Kawasaki-FTR) 4.802, 20. Danilo Petrucci (ITA/Ioda) 4.878



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