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Rossi tops opening practice in Motegi
Valentino Rossi was quicker than Casey Stoner on Friday in Japan. That was the result that everyone was awaiting after the latter’s dominance in Qatar, but the Italian’s fightback doesn’t tell the whole story of the first free practice session for the Polini Grand Prix of Japan.

Reigning World Champion and 2008 race winner Rossi left his final push to the last possible moment, cutting more than half a second off his previous best time in the session to edge out the current series leader. The Italian stopped the clock at 1’48.545 to bring an end to Stoner’s perfect record in practice, qualifying and warm-up sessions in 2009.

Ducati Marlboro man Stoner threw himself into the challenge with an early 1’48.601 lap of the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, but elected to return to the garage instead of returning fire once Rossi had taken the advantage.

Rossi’s Fiat Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo had expressed his desire to record times closer to those of Stoner in the run-up to Japan and, like Rossi, his ultimate lap was also his most effective. The Spaniard was the final rider to go round in under 1’49.

Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi showed that Rizla Suzuki’s efforts to improve the GSV-R over the winter had been something of a success, both in the top six at a track that did not go well for the duo in 2008. They sandwiched satellite Yamaha rider Colin Edwards on the timesheet, whilst the top ten also included fastest Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso, Hayate Racing surprise Marco Melandri, 2007 podium finisher Toni Elías and Monster Tech3 Yamaha’s James Toseland.

Home rider Yuki Takahashi ran off track in the session, whilst fellow rookie Mika Kallio had a spectacular highside –from which he returned to action during the 45-minute run.



Rider Nation Team Lap time
1 V. ROSSI ITA Fiat Yamaha Team 1'48.545
2 C. STONER AUS Ducati Marlboro Team + 0.056
3 J. LORENZO SPA Fiat Yamaha Team + 0.420
4 C. VERMEULEN AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 0.837
5 C. EDWARDS USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 + 1.152
6 L. CAPIROSSI ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP + 1.435
7 A. DOVIZIOSO ITA Repsol Honda Team + 1.485
8 M. MELANDRI ITA Hayate Racing Team + 1.578
9 T. ELIAS SPA San Carlo Honda Gresini + 1.664
10 J. TOSELAND GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 + 1.797
11 D. PEDROSA SPA Repsol Honda Team + 1.846
12 N. HAYDEN USA Ducati Marlboro Team + 1.848
13 Y. TAKAHASHI JPN Scot Racing Team MotoGP + 1.859
14 S. GIBERNAU SPA Grupo Francisco Hernando + 1.993
15 A. DE ANGELIS RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini + 2.056
16 R. DE PUNIET FRA LCR Honda MotoGP + 2.124
17 M. KALLIO FIN Pramac Racing + 3.098
18 N. CANEPA ITA Pramac Racing + 3.384

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