Andrea Dovizioso found himself on top of the MotoGP timesheets for the first time as a Repsol Honda rider on Friday at Le Mans, after a rain interrupted free practice session.
Whilst the result was clearly influenced by the rain, which arrived just after the halfway stage of the newly extended one-hour session, Dovizioso was a frontrunner throughout the dry part of the session - then knocked Casey Stoner from the top by 0.058sec just before the weather turned for the worse.
It marked the second time Dovizioso has led a grand prix track session since he joined the premier class last season - the first being the wet Saturday morning practice session at Donington Park 2008.
"I'm happy today because we have started in the right way here at Le Mans,” said Dovi, a podium finisher at Le Mans from 2003-2007 in the lower grand prix classes. “I like this track and I was able to be fast right from the beginning of the session.
“Unfortunately it started raining in the middle of the practice and so we didn't do many laps - only 16 in total. This meant we couldn't test so many options on the machine but anyway, we were able to get some useful information and learn that we need to improve the set-up for corner entry.
“The lap times overall were not very fast today and I think they will come down by around two seconds - so today's lap time is not indicative for the weekend.
"Regarding the race, I've had many podium finishes here so my expectations are high, but it's too early to speculate about results. We just need to keep on working hard - and keep an eye on the weather,” concluded Dovizioso, who has claimed a best finish of fifth this season.
Team-mate Dani Pedrosa, joint third in the championship with two podiums from three starts, lay in third for most of the dry part of the session, before slipping to fifth immediately before the rain began to fall.
"We were lucky to get some dry track time today, even though there was rain towards the close of the session,” said Pedrosa, whose best lap was 0.340sec slower than Dovizioso. “It's a very different kind of circuit to the last race at Jerez - where I've testing a lot - and so really today was about getting dialed in to this track and beginning the set-up process.
“My physical condition is getting better all the time and I can bend my knee a lot more now - I've almost got full movement. Still, I haven't been able to train physically at 100 per cent though, so my condition isn't perfect yet, but it's getting better all the time. I didn't ride much in the second half of the session today because it wasn't fully wet and we have a limit on wet tyres, so I didn't want to waste any. Let's see what the weather brings tomorrow."
"Today the result was good for the Repsol Honda Team so I'm pleased with how things went, especially for Andrea,” declared team manager Kazuhiko Yamano. “Dani's pace was also good and we can build on this start, though we still have to make progress with our machine and I think these results today are primarily down to the performances from our riders.”