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Stoner Sets Eyes On Qatar After Topping Pre-Season Tests

The MotoGP™ class was blessed with close to ideal conditions at Jerez on Sunday, where the third and final day of the Official Test took place. With the first practice session of the season's opening race – the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar – less than two weeks away, all 21 riders who will make up the elite category grid in 2012 were able to pack in a full day's work at the southern Spanish circuit thanks to clear blue skies and favourable temperatures.

Laying down the gauntlet in the lead-up to the new campaign World Champion Casey Stoner, who on Saturday had ridden just three laps and was one of those most aggrieved by the loss of a day to the poor conditions, was able to make significant progress on Sunday and timed in at 1'38.780. The Australian built up to his fast lap steadily, taking top spot inside the final quarter-of-an-hour of the day and then improving on it with his 61st and final lap. Perhaps of most concern for Stoner's rivals will have been the consistency of his pace – on his longest run, which was a 10-lap stint prior to his hot lap, his average time was registered at fractionally under 1'39.7.

Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha Factory Racing) had occupied top spot for the majority of the day before Stoner leapt ahead of him. Lorenzo was the only other rider to get under 1'39” across all three days when he set a scorching fast lap of 1'38.953 in the morning, on a new set of slick tyres., With that the Spaniard remained the quickest rider until shortly before the conclusion of the day, and was able to focus on electronics work, a race simulation and pace consistency in the afternoon as he put in a total of 84 laps.

Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) was the next closest challenger to Stoner in terms of lap times, getting to within 0.377s of his team-mate thanks to a best time of 1'39.157. Pedrosa also carried out a race-distance run, and the pace of both Pedrosa and Lorenzo during their 26-lap long runs was highly impressive as each lapped regularly in the low- to mid-1'40” region.

Yamaha Factory Racing's Ben Spies, in a similar vein to his team-mate Lorenzo, did not have anything new to try out but rather concentrated on improving his YZR-M1's set-up and the American was able to get to within 0.715s of Stoner. The highest-placing non-factory prototype of the day was Cal Crutchlow (Monster Yamaha Tech 3), who on Saturday had said that he believed there could be time to be gained from a new front tyre compound which was made available on Sunday by Bridgestone. The Brit made up over half-a-second on his time from the first day, posting a 1'39.585 to end the Test fifth fastest following an impressive display.

After what had been a hugely disappointing second day for Valentino Rossi and with a corner entry issue having been a major problem for the Italian on day one, he found a personal improvement of almost 1.2s on Sunday afternoon to get into the 1'39”s for the first time during the Test. The Ducati Team rider's best effort of the day of 1'39.733 made him the last rider to get within a second of Stoner, which represented something of a considerable step forward compared to Friday's results as Rossi worked on trying to carry more speed into corners.

Having suffered with illness on Friday, Andrea Dovizioso was able to take advantage of a full day's riding to put in 72 laps as he carried on where he had left off on day one – namely finding an electronics setting which better aided stability in corner exit. The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider was just ahead of Nicky Hayden (Ducati Team), who in his search for better traction in the faster corners timed in as the last rider under 1'40” with a 1'39.919.

The top 10 was completed by Álvaro Bautista (San Carlo Honda Gresini), who escaped an afternoon crash at the Dry Sack corner unharmed, and rookie Stefan Bradl (LCR Honda) who at 1.318s off the fastest time of the Test rounded off a solid pre-season. Héctor Barberá was the busiest rider of the day, putting in 91 laps on his Pramac Racing Ducati machine, and he timed in just under three-tenths ahead of fellow GP12 rider Karel Abraham of the Cardion ab Motoracing team.

Frenchman Randy de Puniet (Power Electronics Aspar) ended the Test as the fastest CRT rider on his Aprilia machine, and in 13th position overall was 1.821s off Stoner at the top. De Puniet ended the Test 1.044s ahead of team-mate Aleix Espargaró who was the next fastest CRT machine.

The Spanish rider led a group of seven CRT riders all within a second of one another by the end of the day, as Danilo Petrucci (Came Iodaracing Project)(picture), Colin Edwards (NGM Mobile Forward Racing), Mattia Pasini (Speed Master), Michele Pirro (San Carlo Honda Gresini), James Ellison (Paul Bird Motorsport) and Iván Silva (Avintia Racing) bunched closely on the timesheet. Pasini was another rider who walked away uninjured from a crash, which came late in the day. Yonny Hernández closed Sunday 0.460s off his Avintia Racing team-mate Silva.
 

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Stoner Sets Eyes On Qatar After Topping Pre-Season Tests
 
Stoner Sets Eyes On Qatar After Topping Pre-Season Tests
The MotoGP™ class was blessed with close to ideal conditions at Jerez on Sunday, where the third and final day of the Official Test took place. With the first practice session of the season's opening race – the Commercialbank Grand Prix of Qatar – less than two weeks away, all 21 riders who will make up the elite category grid in 2012 were able to pack in a full day's work at the southern Spanish circuit thanks to clear blue skies and favourable temperatures.
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