Jorge Lorenzo outpaced team-mate and home hero Valentino Rossi during Friday free practice for the Italian Grand Prix at Mugello - on a day when the top four championship contenders dominated the top four positions.

Lorenzo, who took the world championship lead by one point from Rossi and Casey Stoner with his second victory of the season last time out at Le Mans, first hit the front just before the half way mark - then returned to the top for good by demoting Rossi with eleven minutes of the hour remaining.

The Spaniard did so with his best lap of the session, a 1min 49.870sec, which made him the only rider to break the 1min 50sec barrier. It was also under the official race lap record of 1min 50.003sec set by Stoner last season.

Rossi, chasing an amazing eighth consecutive home victory this weekend, had been almost one-second faster than nearest rival Lorenzo after the first 15 minutes, but was ultimately forced to settle for a close second to the #99 with a best lap 0.195sec slower than his team-mate.

Like Rossi and Lorenzo, Stoner also made several appearances at the top of the timesheets before losing out to the factory M1s in the final 15 minutes. However, the 2007 world champion's Desmosedici was only 0.270sec from Lorenzo by the chequered flag.

Dani Pedrosa, fourth in the championship, was also fourth on the timesheets for much of the session, eventually finishing 0.664sec behind Stoner. Pedrosa was the final rider within one-second of Lorenzo and set a stunning top speed of 349.3km/h on his Repsol Honda.

Colin Edwards was fifth fastest for Monster Tech 3 Yamaha, 1.021sec from Lorenzo, with fellow satellite rider Alex de Angelis a fraction slower for San Carlo Honda Gresini, at a circuit where he enjoyed his best ride of the 2008 season.

Loris Capirossi, the only rider on the grid other than Rossi to have won the premier-class race at Mugello, put his Rizla Suzuki seventh (+1.137sec). LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet was eighth, ahead of Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso.

Fresh from his stunning second at Le Mans, Marco Melandri placed his Hayate-run Kawasaki tenth, 1.489sec from Lorenzo but only 0.551sec from Pedrosa. James Toseland (Tech 3), Toni Elias (Gresini Honda) and Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) were eleventh, twelfth and 13th.

Aside from Stoner, Ducati riders had a challenging start to the Desmosedici's home event, with Pramac's Niccolo Canepa next best after Stoner in 14th (despite a fall), while factory rider Nicky Hayden had been 17th and last until gaining ground in the final quarter.

The American finally rose to 15th, ahead of only Yuki Takahashi (Scot Honda) and Mika Kallio (Pramac)

Troy Bayliss, invited to test the Desmosedici GP9 at Mugello from May 12-14, set a best lap time of 1min 51.2sec during that outing, which would have placed the triple World Superbike champion and Valencia 2006 MotoGP winner ninth in Friday practice - ahead of all Ducati riders except Stoner.

Grupo Francisco Hernando Ducati rider Sete Gibernau is not present this weekend after fracturing his left collarbone at the French Grand Prix.

Weather forecasts predict a change for the worst on Saturday.

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

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