Reigning 250cc world champion Marco Simoncelli, who withdrew from Qatar due to pain from his freshly fractured scaphoid bone, made a spectacular return to action by being fastest during Friday practice at Motegi.
The Italian took his Gilera to a head-turning 0.602sec advantage over the field on the penultimate lap of his 17 circulations, suggesting his wrist is causing him few problems.
Mattia Pasini had been Simoncelli's nearest rival for much of the session, but fell from his Team Toth Aprilia in the closing minutes and was thus helpless to resist the efforts of home star Hiroshi Aoyama, who snatched second position for Scot Honda in the closing minute.
Pasini then lost a further position when Simoncelli's expected main 2009 rival Alvaro Bautista claimed a late third place for Aspar Aprilia.
Hector Barbera, winner of the shortened Qatar race from Jules Cluzel, claimed fifth position with 125cc world champions Gabor Talmacsi and Mike di Meglio seventh and eighth on their Motegi 250 debut.
Friday practice - Motegi:
1. Simoncelli 1min 53.093sec
2. Aoyama (Honda) +0.602sec
3. Bautista (Aprilia) +0.743sec
4. Pasini (Aprilia) +0.847sec
5. Barbera (Aprilia) +1.404sec
6. de Rosa (Honda) +1.491sec
7. Talmacsi (Aprilia) +1.501sec
8. di Meglio (Aprilia) +1.502sec
9. Locatelli (Gilera) +1.664sec
10. Debon (Aprilia) +2.100sec