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Rossi fires to the front in Le Mans with Lorenzo close in third

The third Grand Prix of the season got underway in France this afternoon and Valentino Rossi started the weekend in strong form by finishing the first practice on top of the standings. His team-mate and last year's race winner Jorge Lorenzo finished third on an unusually sunny day at the famous Le Mans 24-Hour track.

Rossi and his crew had made some significant improvements to their setting during the Jerez test and they were rewarded with immediate gratification today, as the Italian felt comfortable and fast on his M1 right from the start. Le Mans is accepted as a good track for Yamaha and it looked just that today as the World Champion lapped consistently in the top three before moving into first with his final lap. This was despite some lingering pain in his recovering shoulder, which he hopes will ease as the weekend progresses.

Lorenzo, who recently turned 23, was masterful in the wet here last year and looked equally happy in today's sunshine, overcoming a small electronics problem at the start to find a good setting and turn out a string of laps in the 1'34s. He finished the session in third behind Casey Stoner and just 0.140 seconds off his team-mate.

Position: 1st Time: 1'34.402 Laps: 28
"I'm really happy about this practice and especially about my last lap, which was very quick. During the test after Jerez we got a better understanding of the problems we had and managed to improve our setting a lot, and that's where we've started from today. It's good to be this fast already. Unfortunately I still have some pain in my shoulder in the two or three hard braking areas, but I hope with the adrenaline tomorrow and Sunday it will be better and won't cause a problem. Our bike is historically very good here and it feels great in the twisty parts especially, so we're hopeful for a good weekend" - Valentino Rossi.

Position: 3rd Time: 1'34.542 Laps: 31
"At the start of the session we had a small problem on one bike with the electronics but we swapped to the other bike and things were okay from there. Little by little I found a good pace and at the end I was able to do a lot of laps in the вАШ34s. My bike feels good here - as everyone says it is always a good track for Yamaha - and although we are still struggling a bit in the acceleration I am feeling good" - Jorge Lorenzo.

Davide Brivio, Team Manager of Valentino Rossi: "A good first session; our job went quite smoothly. We just made a few small adjustments and the results were good, so we're working in the right way. The only issue is that Valentino still has some pain in his right shoulder, which is disturbing him a bit in the hard braking areas. Anyway despite this we were fastest so we've done a good job and now we'll look to continue with a few small improvements tomorrow."

Wilco Zeelenberg, Team Manager of Jorge Lorenzo: "We're pleased with our start today and we were very consistent in practice. We had a few small problems at the beginning but we solved them quickly and then worked on two different settings, comparing them and finding some plus and minus points to both. Jorge's lap time is already good and he's third and very close. Tomorrow we will look at ways to make some more small steps to hopefully gain a couple of tenths, but this is a good start."

Combined Free Practice Times
1. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1'34.402
2. Casey Stoner (AUS) Ducati Marlboro Team 1'34.508
3. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Fiat Yamaha Team 1'34.542
4. Andrea Dovizioso (ITA) Repsol Honda Team 1'34.625
5. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Repsol Honda Team 1'34.989
6. Colin Edwards (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1'35.089
7. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati Marlboro Team 1'35.223
8. Ben Spies (USA) Monster Yamaha Tech 3 1'35.291
9. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) Pramac Green Team 1'35.450
10. Marco Melandri (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1'35.643
11. Loris Capirossi (ITA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1'35.685
12. Marco Simoncelli (ITA) San Carlo Honda Gresini 1'35.959
13. Hector Barbera (SPA) Aspar Team 1'36.009
14. Randy de Puniet (FRA) LCR Honda MotoGP 1'36.086
15. Mika Kallio (FIN) Pramac Green Team 1'36.292
16. Hiroshi Aoyama (JAP) Interwetten-Honda MotoGP 1'36.798
17. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 1'37.525

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