2009 Qatar Night Test Day 3 - Stoner Nearly A Second Ahead

On the final day of testing at Qatar, Casey Stoner did his usual trick of trouncing the field, his fastest time of 1'55.744 just 6/10ths off his own lap record, and nearly a second faster than his nearest competitor. Stoner did relatively few laps, and is still in some pain from his recuperating scaphoid, but declared himself happy with its progress, calling his wrist "almost OK", although he did tell GPOne.com that he was unhappy with the number of laps he had put in on the Ducati. The only worry the Australian had was in areas which involved heavy braking for left handers with the bike tipped over. Stoner had been testing electronics settings to match the new carbon fiber swingarm Ducati is using on the GP9, and decided to call it a day at 11pm, after the track began to lose grip as it cooled.

Stoner's nearest competitor was a bit of a surprise: Jorge Lorenzo was second fastest on the final day of testing, after complaining in previous days that he was struggling to cope with the Bridgestone tires. He obviously found some kind of solution, though his time still left him just under a second slower than Stoner.

Lorenzo may have been slower than Stoner, but he was also nearly a quarter of a second faster than his Fiat Yamaha team mate. Both Lorenzo and Rossi had been focusing on race simulations, putting in long runs to test how the bike ran on the spec tires. Lorenzo's times were impressive: a long run of 1'57s, finishing with a few laps in the 1'56s.

Chris Vermeulen finished the day 4th, the Suzuki clearly improved over the winter, raising hopes that the bike may show a return to its 2007 form. But the form of the Suzukis was perhaps not the biggest news of the night.

For race fans all over the US will be breathing a collective sigh of relief at the times set by Nicky Hayden. Hayden's hard work is starting to pay off, as the American is finally closing the gap on the front runners. Hayden's fastest lap was just 0.001 off Vermeulen's time, and a quarter of a second slower than Valentino Rossi. More importantly, he improved his own times by over a second, leapfrogging over a bunch of riders who had been ahead of him. Hayden could finally be getting to grips with the difficult but fast Ducati.

Further down the field, James Toseland continued to struggle, clearly still not completely recovered from his big crash at Sepang less than a month ago. But at the very bottom of the pile sits Marco Melandri, on The Bike Formerly Known As Kawasaki. Melandri had previously declared himself satisfied with the feeling and feedback from the Hayate, and told GPOne.com that he was close to finally agreeing to ride the bike this year. It remains to be seen whether this is still the case if the progress Melandri has described continues to be much slower than the rest of the field.

The MotoGP pack return back to their respective homes again, to train and prepare themselves for the final test of the preseason, the official IRTA test at Jerez at the end of March. Then it's back to Qatar again, but then, racing starts in earnest.

Final times from testing:

Pos.RiderBikeTimeFast LapTotal Laps
1Casey StonerDucati1'55.7442231
2Jorge LorenzoYamaha1'56.7336482
3Valentino RossiYamaha1'56.9723075
4Chris VermeulenSuzuki1'57.2247070
5Nicky HaydenDucati1'57.2253553
6Loris CapirossiSuzuki1'57.2532142
7Randy de PunietHonda1'57.4014477
8Andrea DoviziosoHonda1'57.4497474
9Colin EdwardsYamaha1'57.5152246
10Alex de AngelisHonda1'57.5915761
11Toni EliasHonda1'57.8046466
12Mika KallioDucati1'57.9382854
13Niccolo CanepaDucati1'57.9461650
14Yuki TakahashiHonda1'58.4122929
15James ToselandYamaha1'58.7863551
16Marco MelandriHayate1'58.8517373

Current lap record held by Casey Stoner, 2008 race, with a lap of 1'55.153

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5th, but still 1.5 secs slower than a stoner nursing with a bum wrist, and limited laps... it's still to early to tell if hayden can figure out the "quirky" ducati.

Yes, but Hayden is only 0.5 seconds off 2nd position, and Stoner has had much more time to get used to the bike. It's an encouraging sign for him.

what's amazing to me is that all the hondas are looking very weak. what the heck?