Reigning MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi broke Casey Stoner's 2009 domination on his very last lap of Friday free practice for the Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.

Stoner, fastest in all three 2009 pre-season tests and then all six track sessions at the Qatar season opener, once again looked set to dominate for Ducati - but Rossi, who wrapped up his sixth MotoGP title with a two-second victory over Stoner in last September's Motegi event, was able to nudge just 0.056sec under the Australian's best on his 18th and final lap.

Stoner, who ran off track after getting out of shape on the corner-entry bumps at turn one early in the session, finished the day with a 0.364sec advantage over Rossi's Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo - on pole at Motegi last season - while Chris Vermeulen and Loris Capirossi gave Suzuki the start it was looking for with fourth and sixth positions (+0.837sec and 1.435sec from Rossi).

Between the GSV-Rs was top satellite rider Colin Edwards, who worked his way steadily up the order for Monster Yamaha Tech 3.

Honda, which owns Motegi and will expect at least a podium finish (something an RCV could not achieve in Qatar) to mark the company's 50th anniversary of grand prix racing, made a slow start to the weekend, with new factory signing Andrea Dovizioso leading the manufacturer's challenge in seventh, almost one and a half seconds behind Rossi.

By contrast, Marco Melandri and the unofficial Kawasaki entry continued to exceed expectations, the Italian claiming an excellent eighth place for Hayate.

Toni Elias put his Gresini run factory Honda up to a late ninth place, just ahead of James Toseland - who made an encouraging start to the weekend by running top eight times for much of the session and holding off team-mate Edwards until six minutes to go.

Dani Pedrosa, who took his first Bridgestone podium in last year's race, clocked the eleventh best lap time on the second Repsol Honda, as he continues to regain fitness after last month's knee and forearm surgery.

Former team-mate Nicky Hayden, left battered and bruised by a huge qualifying highside on his Ducati debut at Losail, was twelfth fastest (+1.8sec from Rossi) with rookie Yuki Takahashi, the only Japanese rider in the premier-class field, making a late jump to 13th position for Team Scot Honda.

Returning double MotoGP World Championship runner-up Sete Gibernau was holding sixth place with 15 minutes to go, but dropped to 14th by the flag for Grupo Francisco Hernando, ahead of satellite Honda riders Alex de Angelis and Randy de Puneit.

Mika Kallio, the leading rookie throughout winter testing and a fine eighth on his race debut in Qatar, suffered a rough highside from his Pramac Ducati on corner entry while holding 13th position in the middle stages of the session.

The Finn limped away but returned to set the 17th fastest lap time, ahead of only team-mate and fellow rookie Niccolo Canepa, who has never ridden at Motegi in any class before.

Friday practice:
1. Rossi
2. Stoner
3. Lorenzo
4. Vermeulen
5. Edwards
6. Capirossi
7. Dovizioso
8. Melandri
9. Elias
10. Toseland
11. Pedrosa
12. Hayden
13. Takahashi
14. Gibernau
15. de Angelis
16. de Puniet
17. Kallio
18. Canepa


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