Stoner fastest in Assen and Elias crashes

Ducati Marlboro`s Casey Stoner dominated the action in today's free practices for the A-Style TT Assen, ninth round of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) that will take place on the historic Dutch circuit. The bad news...

Ducati Marlboro`s Casey Stoner dominated the action in today's free practices for the A-Style TT Assen, ninth round of the FIM Road Racing World Championship Grand Prix (MotoGP) that will take place on the historic Dutch circuit.

The bad news of the day came when Toni Elias tumbled awkwardly in the gravel following a fast low-side fall from his RC212V of Gresini Honda. As a consequence, the Spaniard suffered a fractured femur that put him out of the show for this weekend`s Grand Prix and his return to racing action is unknown at this time.

"I knew I'd broken my leg straight away. I tried to put it back in position even though the pain was tremendous. Hopefully I can recover quickly and be back on track soon. I also want to thank all the Clinica Mobile staff for their help and support", Elias stated.

This is the third consecutive time that Elias had an accident and missed the Dutch race in TT Assen after having similar situations in 2005 and 2006.

Stoner was the only rider to be under the 1.38s after he clocked 1.37:828 on board his Desmosedici GP7 taking a gap of 0.212 over his pursuer from Kawasaki Racing, the Frenchman Randy de Puniet, that set a time of 1.38:040.

"I don't know why but we got a little bit confused with the settings and went backwards this morning, so I wasn't overly confident. The time we had on the track this afternoon was very positive, we managed to get everything sorted and towards the end of the session I was feeling quite confident with a different tyre we had chosen", Stoner said.

The young Aussie worked on his race set-up today and already appears to be comfortably navigating the recently modified Assen circuit, although Stoner remarked that he didn`t like the modifications on the historic circuit.

"The settings we use here are pretty similar to what we used at Donington, not straight out of the box, but you don't need a totally different set-up here like you did with the old track. There's no big g-force areas anymore, they've pretty much destroyed an awesome racetrack. It's so disappointing, you keep thinking 'where's the old one gone', it's not the most fun to ride anymore", the Ducati rider commented.

De Puniet showed a strong performance with the Kawasaki Ninja that allowed the team to wait with great expectation for Saturday`s Grand Prix as the French rider looks for his first podium in the premier class.

"I'm very happy. This afternoon, we made some improvements to the front and rear suspension, plus worked on our tyre choices for the race, and it all worked very well", de Puniet expressed.

Feeling happy and relaxed, the 26-year-old Frenchman is looking more and more impressive on his 800cc Ninja ZX-RR, shod with Bridgestone tyres. Having now recovered from recent injuries it seems, perhaps, that now is the time for him to shine and the first statistic he'll be aiming to better will be the 11th place grid position he achieved here last year.

"The bike felt right, I managed good lap times and I'm in second behind the leader of the championship. I know he beat me, even though I was at the front for most of the practice session, but it was more important today for me to find a good set up and I have. It's really positive and I feel like we're moving in the right direction", de Puniet ended.

Nicky Hayden was third fastest as his recent improvements were demonstrated again, after a strong performance last week in Donington, that the world champion couldn`t complete at the end. Hayden set a fastest lap of 1.38:114 to beat Valentino Rossi in his kitsch new Fiat 500 inspired livery.

Top five places are completed by the second bike of Repsol Honda with Dani Pedrosa -- who this week said to Honda that things cannot continue on this year's road of being beaten by Ducati and Yamaha -- he was followed in today's practices by the surprising Makoto Tamada in the Tech 3 Yamaha.

And Honda did respond with the announcement that a version of the 2008 RC212V will be in the hands of the two Repsol riders at the Czech Grand Prix in August. Current plans include that new evolution Honda to be ready before the end of the season,

The rain was expected to appear today in Assen, but didn`t happened; however, the qualifying session for the ninth race of the season could be complicated by wet conditions.

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