The third free practice session at Laguna Seca was no different to the first, with Casey Stoner once again dominating the session almost from start to finish. Stoner continues to be several tenths faster than anyone else in the paddock, with Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen being the man to get closes this time out. A measure of just how good Stoner is here is the fact that the next Ducati is Loris Capirossi down in 14th, 0.996 (a fine Ducati number) slower. What's more, Stoner's time is already faster than the pole record here, set by Nicky Hayden in 2005, on a motorcycle with 190cc more capacity, and on qualifying tires. Pole this year is likely to be inside of 1'21.
Times in the session were considerably closer, once you ignore SuperStoner, with just over a second between 2nd and 16th places, and 2nd to 6th place separated by just 0.137 seconds. The names were the ones we've been seeing all weekend, Chris Vermeulen and his Suzuki team mate John Hopkins, Marco Melandri the best Honda rider, ahead of Nicky Hayden and Dani Pedrosa on the Repsol Hondas. Colin Edwards is the first Fiat Yamaha rider, dropping down a little, and Valentino Rossi is down in 9th, after crashing out at Turn 6 while in the middle of a run of fast laps. The bad news for Rossi is that The Doctor bruised his shoulder and banged up his left hand, particularly the little finger. Rossi is currently getting some physio on his shoulder, to get him ready for this afternoon's qualifying session.
An honorable mention must go to Roger Lee Hayden, fastest of the Kawasakis, finishing ahead of regular riders Randy de Puniet and Ant West. Makoto Tamada also did well, setting the 8th fastest time on a tire he had already done a fast lap on, making it unlikely he used a qualifier. A special mention also goes out to Chaz Davies, taking over 1.2 seconds off his fastest time from yesterday afternoon. Miguel Duhamel, the other replacement rider, put in a solid display, beating out Kurtis Roberts who failed to improve on his time from yesterday.
Among the strugglers were Loris Capirossi, disappointing after last week's podium, and Alex Barros, who is in considerable pain from his hand injury. If he continues to struggle, and Davies continues to improve, Barros could find himself being beaten by hs temporary team mate. As for Shinya Nakano, he languishes near the bottom of the standings once again, presumably ruing the decision to leave the Kawasaki with every breath he takes.
Qualifying takes place in a couple of hours from now.
|11||95||Roger Lee HAYDEN||KAWASAKI||1'23.285||0.920||0.003|
|13||14||Randy DE PUNIET||KAWASAKI||1'23.333||0.968||0.020|
|Fastest Lap:||Casey STONER||1'22.365||157.785 Km/h|
|Circuit Record Lap:||2006||Dani PEDROSA||1'23.333||155.952 Km/h|
|Circuit Best Lap:||2007||Casey STONER||1'22.365||157.785 Km/h|