x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Rossi confident of a hat-trick

Fresh from winning his 100th GP in Assen last week, the championship leader was quickest in practice at Laguna Seca.

Yamaha's Valentino Rossi was the only rider to dip under 1min 22sec this weekend.
Yamaha's Valentino Rossi was the only rider to dip under 1min 22sec this weekend.

Fresh from winning his 100th GP in Assen last week, championship leader Valentino Rossi was quickest in practice at Laguna Seca, the venue for the US Moto GP - round eight of the 17-event world championship. Italian Rossi, hunting a third consecutive victory this weekend, was the only rider to dip under 1min 22sec. With the top three riders in the world championship standings also the fastest trio in practise, Ducati rider Casey Stoner, who has carried a virus throughout the last two races, was quickest for much of the session, but the Australian was overhauled late on by his Fiat Yamaha championship rivals.

Rossi clocked a 1min 21.981sec in his final lap of the day, some 0.112sec ahead of his teammate Jorge Lorenzo - second in the championship - with Stoner a further 0.189sec adrift. "It was a good first practice because I'm in first place and also because we worked well on the bike," said Rossi. "Already the lap time is not too bad, it looks like we are competitive and our Yamaha is good here at this track."

Stoner was not so optimistic. He said: "I am trying some new medication and even though I feel worse today than I did on day one at Barcelona or Assen, I'm hoping it might come good for Sunday. Either way, it's damage limitation for me again in terms of the championship. "It looks like it's going to be a similar weekend to the last two, but this time we are kind of expecting it, whereas at Assen I thought that all my problems were over."

The top three were comfortably quicker than fourth-placed Dani Pedrosa. Toni Elias, Andrea Dovizioso, Marco Melandri, Chris Vermeulen, Colin Edwards and Alex de Angelis completed the top 10. Home favourite Nicky Hayden wore a Fourth of July fireworks helmet design during practice but it turned out to be a damp squib for the locals who had come along to cheer their hero. Hayden flogging his way round the 3.sixkm track and was 14th fastest.

In the standings, Rossi leads Lorenzo by five points. emegson@thenational.ae