Stoner tops Friday practice at Le Mans
18 May 2012 – A day after announcing his retirement from MotoGP at the end of the 2012 season, Casey Stoner set the pace on the first day of practice for the French Grand Prix. The Honda rider lapped Le Mans in 1:33.740, edging out team-mate Dani Pedrosa and closest championship challenger Jorge Lorenzo.
A third Spaniard in the top four and laying the foundations for a promising Gresini weekend, Álvaro Bautista was fourth ahead of Ben Spies, with Italian Andrea Dovizioso and Britain’s Cal Crutchlow next up. Just under one and a half seconds cover the top ten, but Stoner’s leading margin is an ominous three tenths of a second ahead of Pedrosa. Valentino Rossi was the highest placed Ducati in ninth place.
13th placed Randy de Puniet was the fastest CRT rider, despite still being in pain following his shunt last time out at Estoril. At the tail end of the field was Forward Racing’s Chris Vermeulen – the outright Le Mans winner of 2007 – who returns this weekend in order to substitute for the injured Colin Edwards.
There were problems for some, with Ioda’s Danilo Petrucci encountering a terminal engine failure as Speed Master’s Mattia Pasini ran wide and fell into the gravel. Aspar also find themselves with damage to repair following a crash for Aleix Espargaró.
Practice 3 begins at 10:10am local time (BST +1) on Saturday