Stoner throws down gauntlet at Estoril GP2012-05-04 16:12
After early damp conditions threatened to throw the day´s practice sessions into disarray, the weather steadied and the track dried out to play host to some fantastic free practice action in the afternoon across all three MotoGP™ classes at the Grande Prémio de Portugal Circuito Estoril.
It was reigning World Champion Casey Stoner who threw down the gauntlet for this weekend by setting the fastest time of the day in the second MotoGP practice session. Stoner´s lap of 1.38´396 put him just three tenths ahead of Yamaha Factory Racing´s Ben Spies, who has worked tirelessly all day to get his season back on track, after some disappointing performances in the previous rounds.
Rounding out the top three is Monster Yamaha Tech 3´s Cal Crutchlow, who continues to impress on his satellite Yamaha, finishing just over two-hundredths off Spies. Stoner´s team mate Dani Pedrosa set the fourth fastest time of the day, as he looks to repeat his victory at the track from the previous year.
In fifth, Yamaha´s birthday-boy Jorge Lorenzo was having a subdued session at the track where he has taken three victories in the past four outings. Behind him, San Carlo Honda Gresini´s Álvaro Bautista set the sixth fastest time just over half a second off Stoner, as he continues to get to grips with his satellite Honda.
Ducati Team´s Nicky Hayden, who will be looking to repeat his front row start last time out at Jerez, occupies seventh place. He finished in front of Pramac Racing´s Héctor Barberá, who once again got the better of Hayden´s teammate Valentino Rossi, who could not finish any higher than ninth, despite a good showing in the morning session. Completing the top ten is Tech 3´s Andrea Dovizioso, who remained in the pits for quite some time with a bike issue.
Top CRT honour went to Power Electronics Aspar rider Randy de Puniet, who is looking to improve on his DNF in Jerez. Came IodaRacing Project´s Danilo Petrucci had to end his session early with a mechanical issue as well.
In the second practice session of the Grande Prémio de Portugal Circuito Estoril it was Marc VDS Racing Team´s Scott Redding who set the weekend´s benchmark by topping the combined Moto2™ timesheets ahead of Marc Márquez.
With a time of 1.41´775, the consistently lapping Redding set the fastest time of the day, in front of Team CatalunyaCaixa Repsol´s Márquez, just two tenths behind.
Third place is occupied by Interwetten-Paddock´s Tom Lüthi, who is looking for his first win of the season at the Portuguese track. Behind him in fourth is the surprise of the day in the form of Mapfre Aspar Team´s 2010 Moto2 World Champion Toni Elías, who is beginning to rekindle some of his previous form.
Jerez race-winner, Pons 40 HP Tuenti rider Pol Espargaró, could not repeat his feat in the morning session where he finished first, yet still managed a strong showing in fifth, just over half a second behind Redding. He finished in front of Tech 3 Racing´s Bradley Smith, who will be looking for a stronger performance this weekend after a slightly disappointing outing in Jerez.
Seventh place went to NGM Mobile Forward Racing´s Alex de Angelis, ahead of Technomag-CIP´s Dominique Aegerter and JiR Moto2´s French rookie Johann Zarco. Rounding out the top ten is Redding´s teammate Mika Kallio, just under a second off the top.
Thai Honda Gresini Moto2´s Ratthapark Wilairot crashed with 22 minutes remaining, while S/Master Speed Up´s Mike Di Meglio followed suit with seven minutes to go. Both were unhurt and managed to return to the pits.
The Moto3™ class enjoyed a dry, but windy afternoon free practice session at the Grande Prémio de Portugal Circuito Estoril, where Estrella Galicia 0,0´s local rider Miguel Oliveira topped the timesheets ahead of Red Bull KMT Ajo´s Sandro Cortese.
With a time of 1.48´497, Oliveira laid down the marker for the weekend and gave home fans something to cheer about, with Germany´s Cortese closely behind by less than two hundredths.
RW Racing GP´s Luis Salom, who has been consistently fast this season so far, set the third fastest time of the session just under four tenths behind Cortese. He managed to oust Blusens Avintia´s pre-season championship favourite Maverick Viñales into fourth.
Fifth spot is occupied by Caretta Racing´s Alexis Masbou, with Team Italia FMI´s championship leader and rookie sensation Romano Fenati in sixth. Cortese´s teammate Danny Kent managed seventh, sitting just over a second off the front.
Completing the top ten are Racing Team Germany´s Louis Rossi, JHK T-Shirt Laglisse´s Adrian Martín and Kent´s teammate Arthur Sissis.
Wild card entry, Thomas Sabo GP Team´s Kevin Hanus from Germany, crashed out of the session with 15 minutes to go, yet walked away unhurt.
IodaRacing Project´s Jonas Folger is still suffering from glandular fever and has been replaced this weekend by Italian rider Armando Pontone, while TT Motion Events Racing´s Niklas Ajo is replaced by Spain´s Joan Olivé, after the Finn was banned following an altercation with a race official at the last round. Caretta Technology´s Jack Miller is replaced this weekend by Italian Manuel Tatasciore, after the Australian fractured his collarbone in Jerez.
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