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Marco Simoncelli tops crash-strewn Sachsenring practice

Marco SimoncelliMarco Simoncelli was quickest in opening free practice for the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, amid a string of crashes for leading riders.

Championship leader Casey Stoner (Honda), his team-mate Dani Pedrosa, Ducati's Valentino Rossi and LCR Honda rider Toni Elias all lost control and fell at the downhill right-hander at Turn 11.

Rossi's was the most violent of the accidents, the former champion tumbling heavily through the gravel and having to go to the medical centre for checks. But he escaped with just cuts to his arm.

Elias would later have a second, much heavier, crash at Turn 1 having resumed on his spare bike, ending his morning.

Simoncelli avoided the carnage and set a session-best time of 1m22.823s on the Gresini Honda.

Stoner improved to second right at the end, 0.181 seconds down on the Italian, and 0.042s ahead of his main title rival Jorge Lorenzo's Yamaha.

Nicky Hayden was an encouraging fourth for Ducati, with satellite Ducati riders Karel Abraham (Cardion AB), Hector Barbera (Aspar) and Randy de Puniet (Pramac) also looking strong in sixth to eighth places, behind works Honda man Andrea Dovizioso.

The works and Tech 3 Yamahas of Ben Spies and Colin Edwards completed the top 10, while Pedrosa - who had been as high as second - fell to 11th following his crash.

Pos  Rider             Team/Bike       Time       Gap
 1.  Marco Simoncelli  Gresini Honda   1m22.823s
 2.  Casey Stoner      Honda           1m23.004s  + 0.181s
 3.  Jorge Lorenzo     Yamaha          1m23.046s  + 0.223s
 4.  Nicky Hayden      Ducati          1m23.205s  + 0.382s
 5.  Andrea Dovizioso  Honda           1m23.355s  + 0.532s
 6.  Karel Abraham     Cardion Ducati  1m23.416s  + 0.593s
 7.  Hector Barbera    Aspar Ducati    1m23.433s  + 0.610s
 8.  Randy de Puniet   Pramac Ducati   1m23.534s  + 0.711s
 9.  Ben Spies         Yamaha          1m23.558s  + 0.735s
10.  Colin Edwards     Tech 3 Yamaha   1m23.594s  + 0.771s
11.  Dani Pedrosa      Honda           1m23.604s  + 0.781s
12.  Alvaro Bautista   Suzuki          1m23.989s  + 1.166s
13.  Cal Crutchlow     Tech 3 Yamaha   1m24.162s  + 1.339s
14.  Valentino Rossi   Ducati          1m24.512s  + 1.689s
15.  Hiroshi Aoyama    Gresini Honda   1m24.620s  + 1.797s
16.  Toni Elias        LCR Honda       1m26.060s  + 3.237s
17.  Loris Capirossi   Pramac Ducati   1m26.334s  + 3.511s
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