Dani Pedrosa returned to the head of the MotoGP field by leading a tricky Friday free practice session for the 2009 British Grand Prix at Donington Park.
The session began in full wet conditions, but ended with sunshine on a nearly dry surface, although no-one felt confident enough for a switch to slick tyres.
The Repsol Honda rider snatched the top spot from Ducati's Casey Stoner by 0.245sec on his very last lap, although the Spaniard's time remained 10 seconds off his own lap record - which he set on his way to victory with the 990cc RC211V in 2006.
“It feels great to be on top today and I'm pleased with how we handled a tricky practice session,” said the US Grand Prix winner. “The conditions were continually changing and so we needed to make the best use of the track time to learn as much as we can.
“There are a few areas we can improve upon - such as the feeling from the bike when it's really wet - and we'll look at working on the settings for those conditions because the weather doesn't look so stable for the weekend and we could see more rain on Sunday.
“It nearly dried out fully towards the end of the session but we stayed on wet tyres for the whole time and I think this was useful because you can have this sort of situation in the race. We're in reasonable shape for the rest of the weekend and I hope I can be in this position at the end of Sunday afternoon.”
Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso was also on the pace, recording the fourth fastest time with a lap just 0.442s behind Pedrosa.
“I'm satisfied with the job we did today,” said the Italian, seeking to end three consecutive DNFs this weekend. “Of course we need to tune the set-up and improve the traction in wet conditions, but this was a good way to begin the last British Grand Prix at Donington.
“The practice started in very wet conditions and I had a good feeling on the bike from the beginning of the session so I'm pleased about that. The track had quite a reasonable level of grip and the pace I could set was good straight away.
“Conditions were changing all the time and in the last part of the session when the track was 90 per cent dry, I couldn't set the fastest lap that I was capable of because I waited for a couple of laps and didn't use the wet tyres to the maximum when they were new. So I'm confident for tomorrow and I think we have a decent chance of getting a good grid position here,” added the #4.