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Simoncelli fastest in Estoril practice

Marco Simoncelli, Gresini Honda, Estoril 2011Marco Simoncelli emphasised his status as one of MotoGP's coming men by setting the fastest time in the opening free practice session for the Portuguese MotoGP.

The Italian Gresini rider, who has access to a factory Honda, set his 1m38.032s lap on his last attempt of the session, bumping factory ace Casey Stoner down to second in the process.

Simoncelli's pace will have boosted him and the team, with the 24-year-old keen to bounce back from crashing out of the lead in the Spanish Grand Prix last time out.

Dani Pedrosa made it three Hondas out of three at the top of the order.

World champion and 2011 MotoGP points leader Jorge Lorenzo was fourth fastest.

The Yamaha rider, who has won every MotoGP race he's started at Estoril, set a time of 1m38.413s about halfway through the 45-minute session and stayed there until that late flurry of activity from the Honda men.

In the end, Lorenzo's time was 0.381s off Simoncelli's ultimate mark, but his pace was consistent and the Spaniard also completed more laps than any other rider.

Valentino Rossi was an encouraging fifth fastest for Ducati, though he was more than half a second away from the pace.

Andrea Dovizioso was a distant sixth on the last of the factory Hondas, ahead of Tech 3's Colin Edwards and works Yamaha rider Ben Spies - the second of the two Texans having a spell in the deep gravel at the Parabolica.

Hector Barbera (Aspar Ducati) and Randy de Puniet (Pramac Ducati) completed the top 10.

Ducati's Nicky Hayden ended the session 14th after suffering a technical problem with his race bike out at Turn 6, before returning to the pits to jump on the spare.

Alvaro Bautista was 17th and last on his return from a badly broken leg on the Suzuki, some three seconds slower than Simoncelli's time.

Pos  Rider             Team/Bike       Time       Gap
 1.  Marco Simoncelli  Gresini Honda   1m38.032s
 2.  Casey Stoner      Honda           1m38.241s  + 0.209s
 3.  Dani Pedrosa      Honda           1m38.259s  + 0.227s
 4.  Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha          1m38.413s  + 0.381s
 5.  Valentino Rossi   Ducati          1m38.569s  + 0.537s
 6.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda           1m38.781s  + 0.749s
 7.  Colin Edwards     Tech 3 Yamaha   1m38.862s  + 0.830s
 8.  Ben Spies         Yamaha          1m38.895s  + 0.863s
 9.  Hector Barbera    Aspar Ducati    1m39.042s  + 1.010s
10.  Randy de Puniet   Pramac Ducati   1m39.779s  + 1.747s
11.  Loris Capirossi   Pramac Ducati   1m39.848s  + 1.816s
12.  Hiroshi Aoyama    Gresini Honda   1m39.856s  + 1.824s
13.  Cal Crutchlow     Tech 3 Yamaha   1m40.129s  + 2.097s
14.  Nicky Hayden      Ducati          1m40.199s  + 2.167s
15.  Toni Elias        LCR Honda       1m40.407s  + 2.375s
16.  Karel Abraham     Cardion Ducati  1m40.469s  + 2.437s
17.  Alvaro Bautista   Suzuki          1m41.034s  + 3.002s
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