Motorcycling: Pedrosa shines in practice as engine troubles hit Rossi

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The Independent Online

Dani Pedrosa upstaged the standings leader Casey Stoner yesterday in the first practice session for tomorrow's MotoGP at Motegi while the multiple world champion Valentino Rossi had a day to forget.

The Italian, who needs to finish ahead of Stoner tomorrow to keep his slim hopes of an eighth world title alive with just three races remaining, was only 14th fastest in the afternoon session after a spectacular engine failure.

"We're a long way behind because, unfortunately, we were following different set-ups with my two bikes and the one that was working better had a technical problem," said Rossi, who was fifth in morning practice.

"On my second bike, with the different setting, I wasn't able to improve and so here I am in 14th."

The Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa, meanwhile, was fastest in both the morning and afternoon sessions, finishing 0.242 seconds clear of Stoner in the first practice before increasing his advantage to 0.579 seconds over the 21-year-old Australian later in the day.

The day's performance was the perfect way for Pedrosa to celebrate signing a new contract with the team, which will keep him with Repsol Honda during the next two seasons.

Kawasaki's Randy de Puniet was second fastest, with a gap of 0.389sec between himself and the Spaniard, with Marco Melandri in third and John Hopkins fourth.

Ducati ace Stoner's time was only good enough to claim the fifth fastest of the day, just ahead of Japanese wildcard Kousuke Akiyoshi, who was riding a Suzuki.

Elsewhere, the Airwaves Ducati rider Leon Haslam has targeted a double win at Donington this weekend as he refuses to give up the British Superbike title.

Haslam, 24, trails championship leader Ryuichi Kiyonari by 75 points going into this weekend's penultimate round, but he said: "The atmosphere is always great so I hope I can put in a performance to match it."