Pedrosa edges out Stoner in free practice for Japan Grand Prix

MOTEGI: Spain’s Dani Pedrosa clocked the fastest free practice time yesterday, edging championship leader Casey Stoner into second place ahead of the Grand Prix of Japan.

Pedrosa timed 1:46.790, 0.054 secongs ahead of Australia’s Stoner, with Andrea Dovizioso third quickest.

“It seems good. All the (Honda) bikes are in the top three,” said Pedrosa, ranked fourth in the championship. “I have always been fast here.”

Honda have an edge over their rival manufacturers because they routinely test their bikes at Motegi, Stoner said, adding that he feels “connections” with the company’s home nation.

A confident Stoner said he would aim to defend his title tomorrow, which he won last year on a Ducati in a performance he said was one of his best.

With a 44-point lead over reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo of Yamaha, victory for Stoner in Motegi could give him the chance to seal the championship at his home Grand Prix in Australia on Oct 16.

“The bike feels pretty good. Everything is working quite well for us,” Stoner said.

“We won a lot of races this year. We are very happy with the way we performed and the bikes performed.

“So far it almost has been a dream season. We only have one more step to go to make it a dream season,” he said.

Lorenzo, who was fifth quickest after Honda’s Marco Simoncelli, said Honda riders had been consistently strong throughout the season.

“We were quite far from Pedrosa and Casey. On this track, we are struggling to be closer,” said Lorenzo, winner in Japan in 2009.

It’s not a big surprise because this year this happened in most of the races,” he said.

“But (even) with the problems we have, we are second in the championship. Yes, maybe I had to push a little bit more in most of the races to be closer to faster riders,” he added.

Stoner said there were several bumps in the track, probably caused by the 9.0-magnitude earthquake that hit northern Japan in March.

A number of riders have expressed unease about the ongoing nuclear crisis caused by the earthquake and tsunami.

Pedrosa said he was considering leaving all his clothes in Japan, while Stoner said he flew in on Thursday night from Australia to minimise the length of his stay in Japan to reduce any risk of radiation exposure.

Lorenzo and Dovizioso also separately said it was a difficult decision for them to come to Japan. — AFP

MotoGP: 1. Dani Pedrosa (Spa) Honda 1:46.790, 2. Casey Stoner (Aus) Honda at 0.054, 3. Andrea Dovizioso (Ita) Honda 0.162, 4. Marco Simoncelli (Ita) Honda 0.398, 5. Jorge Lorenzo (Spa) Yamaha 0.520, 6. Nicky Hayden (US) Ducati 0.591, 7. Hiroshi Aoyama (Jpn) Honda 0.995, 8. Valentino Rossi (Ita) Ducati 1.185, 9. Hector Barbera (Spa) Ducati 1.265, 10. Colin Edwards (US) Yamaha 1.286.

Moto2: 1. Thomas Luthi (Sui) Suter 1:53.002, 2. Stefan Bradl (Ger) Kalex at 0.180sec, 3. Yuki Takahashi (Jpn) Moriwaki 0.352, 4. Dominique AeGerter (Sui) Suter 0.463, 5. Pol Spaargaro (Spa) FTR 0.474.

125cc: 1. Maverick Vinales (Spa) Aprilia 1:59.273, 2. Nicolas Terol (Spa) Aprilia at 0.163, 3. Johann Zarco (Fra) Derbi 0.246, 4. Jonas FolGer (Ger) Aprilia 0.577, 5. Alberto Moncayo (Spa) Aprilia 1.051.

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