Jorge Lorenzo, battling to stay within one race win of Fiat Yamaha team-mate and MotoGP title leader Valentino Rossi, got his Czech Republic Grand Prix weekend off to an excellent start by dominating Friday's one hour free practice session at Brno.

The young Spaniard, who starts round eleven 25 points (exactly one win) behind reigning six time MotoGP champion Rossi, set a storming pace to remain on top of the timesheets from the 20 minute mark onwards.

Rossi was one of only two riders to finish within one second of Lorenzo, the four-time 2009 race winner closing to within 0.399sec of the #99 on his last lap of the afternoon, when he may have lost a little time passing a fallen Alex de Angelis.

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Rossi won last year's race by over 15 seconds after Casey Stoner crashed out of the lead.

Dani Pedrosa was third for much of practice, but only dipped within one second of Lorenzo at the very end of the session. Pedrosa and Donington winner Andrea Dovizioso (fifth fastest) were earlier confirmed at Repsol Honda for the next two years.

Colin Edwards, who took his first podium of the season last time out at the British GP, split the factory RCV riders for a late fourth on his Monster Yamaha Tech 3.

Third in the championship Stoner has withdrawn from the next three events to try and cure the fatigue problems he has suffered at the last five rounds, with his place at Ducati Marlboro handed to class rookie Mika Kallio.

The young Finn, a best of eighth so far this year, made a flying start to his factory career by running fifth throughout the middle stages of the session, a position he returned to with one minute to go. However, last gasp improvements by Dovizioso and Toni Elias (Gresini Honda) pushed him back to seventh, 1.707sec behind Lorenzo but still the top Ducati rider.

Permanent factory GP9 rider Nicky Hayden had contrasting fortunes, sitting just 15th at the halfway stage on his way to twelfth place. The 2006 world champion set a best lap time 0.519sec slower than Kallio.

Alex de Angelis was eighth despite his late fall.

Suzuki's last MotoGP podium came at the hands of Loris Capirossi at Brno last season and the team began the 2009 event with ninth and 13th places for Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen. Marco Melandri completed a top ten covered by an unusually large 2.144sec for Hayate.

James Toseland was the slowest M1 rider in eleventh, with Randy de Puniet - who took his first podium since 2007 last time out at Donington Park, then fractured his ankle in a motocross accident - just behind Vermeulen in 14th.

Kallio's Pramac Ducati ride has been temporarily handed to 2009 WSBK race winner Michel Fabrizio, whose last MotoGP appearance was as a stand-in rider at Honda Gresini in the 2007 German GP. The Italian was 17th and last in practice, with a half-second gap to 16th placed Gabor Talmacsi.

Hungarian Talmacsi, certain to receive huge support throughout the weekend at the nearest thing to his home grand prix, was in turn half a second behind Pramac's Niccolo Canepa.

Brno marks the start of new engine regulations, which allow a maximum of five engines changes to be made by each rider during the final seven rounds of this season. Extra engine changes are punishable by a ten point penalty.

In 2010, the rules will demand further increases in engine life with each rider being limited to six engines for the whole 18-race series.

A test session takes place at Brno on Monday before round twelve of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship is held at Indianapolis on August 28-30.

Friday practice:

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