Rossi’s champ... but Stoner’s on a mis­sion

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - SPORT -

VA­LEN­CIA, Spain: Aus­tralia’s Casey Stoner set the pace in the first free prac­tice ses­sion yes­ter­day ahead of to­mor­row’s Va­len­cia Mo­toGP.

The Du­cati rider clocked 1min 32.813sec to hold off Spa­niards Jorge Lorenzo and Dani Pe­drosa ahead of the sea­son-end­ing grand prix with world cham­pion Valentino Rossi fourth fastest on his Yamaha.

Stoner, who has won the last two races on his Du­cati fol­low­ing a three-event ab­sence due to ill­ness-in­duced fa­tigue, dom­i­nated the race week­end here in 2008. He se­cured pole po­si­tion, set a lap record and won the race. And he is looking for a sim­i­lar re­sult this year.

“Whether I win or lose this race won’t change much for my sea­son but I’d like to fin­ish the year with a good re­sult,” said Stoner, who is cur­rently third in the world cham­pi­onship ahead of Pe­drosa.

“This fi­nal meet of the year should above all serve to gather the max­i­mum in­for­ma­tion for next sea­son,” added the Aus­tralian.

Rossi, mean­while, had the plea­sure of rid­ing as world cham­pion af­ter mak­ing sure of the 2009 cham­pi­onship by fin­ish­ing third in the rain-hit Malaysian Grand Prix two weeks ago.

“It’s re­ally great to ride here as world cham­pion and without think­ing about points,” said the Ital­ian, who will start test­ing his new Yamaha bike on Mon­day.

With the 125cc ti­tle also wrapped up by Spain’s Ju­lian Si­mon, only the 250cc cham­pi­onship re­mains to be de­cided with Ja­pan’s Hiroshi Aoyama tak­ing a 21-point lead over Italy’s Marco Si­mon­celli into the race.

A victory for Aoyama will help sal­vage a dis­as­trous sea­son for Honda, a year which has seen Yamaha reign as the dom­i­nant power in Mo­toGP, Su­per­bike, Su­pers­port and in En­durance.

And the Ja­panese rider set the fourth fastest time yes­ter­day with Spa­niard Hec­tor Bar­bera set­ting the pace for Aprilia. Si­mon­celli clocked the sixth-fastest time on a Gil­era. – Sapa-AFP

REUTERS

FULL TILT: Yamaha’s Valentino Rossi at­tacks a curve dur­ing free prac­tice at Va­len­cia.

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