Jorge Lorenzo, who crashed spectacularly on lap one of last year's US GP, made a fast and mistake free return to Laguna Seca on Friday, when he finished opening practice just 0.112sec behind Fiat Yamaha team-mate and title rival Valentino Rossi.

"I was very fast today and I feel good here at this track in the California sunshine!" said Lorenzo, presently just five points behind Rossi. "I know that this is a very complicated circuit to get used to and that you have to make a lot of laps to learn it, but I did have some time on it last year and I feel great here now."

Lorenzo's 38 laps were split into just two runs, of 14 and then 20 fast laps, underlining his commitment to race pace. Rossi did four runs, the longest of which was seven laps, while third fastest Casey Stoner did five runs, with a maximum of five consecutive fast laps.

"Today I stopped after a few laps and changed the tyre to the harder Bridgestone one and then I felt even better; I was having a lot of fun riding the bike and I was able to do more or less race distance with consistent lap times," he confirmed. "We will work on further improving our setting tomorrow and I hope that I can continue in the same way again."

Lorenzo will be without team manager Daniele Romagnoli in his pit garage this weekend.

"Unfortunately our team manager Daniele Romagnoli can't be with us this weekend as he has had to return to Italy to be with his father, who is unwell," explained Lorenzo's crew chief Ramon Forcada. "We wish him our best at this time.

"As for today, Jorge made a good start and our base setting is working very well here - we didn't have to change anything during the session. We tried both types of front and rear tyres in order to compare and we already have quite a clear idea for the race, so it just remains to confirm that tomorrow. We need to work a little bit on the electronics now but overall we're in good shape," he added.

Lorenzo, a double 2009 race winner, has finished second to Rossi at the last two events.