Simoncelli death threats cloud Stoner's great day

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The Independent Online

Casey Stoner was quickest in practice yesterday ahead of tomorrow's Catalunya Grand Prix in Barcelona. The Australian Honda driver finished ahead of Marco Simoncelli and Andrea Dovizioso.

The Australian goes into the grand prix second in the championship standings and with two wins in the four races held to date. He is 12 points behind the Spaniard Jorge Lorenzo.

"I'm not feeling the best at the moment but you're always more enthusiastic after a break," he said. "We had a great weekend at Le Mans [where he won last month's French GP] and I really enjoy this circuit. I think the Honda will go well here."

Stoner believes he is well placed in the title race, with many of his favourite tracks to come, including Catalunya, where he has finished on the podium for the past four years. "Things can happen in this period," he said. "We have most of the tracks I struggle with out of the way. It's a very flowing track and the Spanish crowd are amazing."

Simoncelli, meanwhile, has been assigned a pair of Barcelona police bodyguards after death threats from local fans, who blame him for a crash at the French GP that left the Spaniard Dani Pedrosa with a broken collarbone. Simoncelli has been warned by the governing body over the illegal manoeuvre that caused the incident. "It's not nice to have to come here with an escort to be able to race," he said.

The Texan Colin Edwards broke his collarbone in a practice fall yesterday, which with Pedrosa's absence means tomorrow's race will have only 15 starters. Edwards has not missed a GP since his 2003 debut.