The first night of 2009 grand prix action has ended with title favourites Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi leading the Friday free practice timesheets at the Qatar MotoGP season-opener.
With track time now restricted to just one, 45 minute, free practice session on a Friday, riders wasted no time in leaving the pits to begin vital preparation work for Sunday's race.
Stoner, winner at Qatar for the past two seasons and leader of all three 2009 pre-season tests, was typically fast from the off - his fourth lap being good enough to keep reigning world champion Rossi 0.6sec behind by the midway point of the session.
Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards then closed to within 0.34sec of Stoner with 18 minutes to go, but Stoner struck back in style - pulling 1.121sec from Edwards.
Rossi's response came as the final five minutes approached, when the Fiat Yamaha star climbed within 0.386sec of Stoner, while a late charge by Edwards put the Texan 0.782sec from the top and the only other rider within one second of the #27 Ducati.
Stoner's best lap was a 1min 57.053sec, compared with a 1min 55.744sec he recorded at the Qatar pre-season test, which he had led by almost one-second from Jorge Lorenzo.
Lorenzo, Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team-mate, snatched a late fourth place on the Friday timesheets, 1.219sec from the top, while Alex de Angelis delighted the San Carlo Honda Gresini team by being the fastest RCV rider, in fifth on his satellite spec machine.
Loris Capirossi was sixth for Rizla Suzuki, almost 1.5sec from Stoner, with rookie Mika Kallio delivering yet another impressive performance to claim seventh for Pramac Ducati.
New Repsol Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso was eighth, while Marco Melandri gave the Hayate Racing Team an excellent debut - the Italian taking the 'unofficial' 2009 Kawasaki ZX-RR to ninth position out of the 18 riders.