The 2009 MotoGP World Championship looked even more like a direct two-rider battle between Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, as the Fiat Yamaha team-mates finished head and shoulders clear of their rivals during Friday practice at Brno.

Despite the surprise withdraw of third in the championship Casey Stoner, due to health problems, Rossi and Lorenzo had suggested that Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso could still be a factor.

But fourth in the championship Pedrosa is already 72 points behind Rossi and, although third fastest on Friday, was 0.989sec slower than Lorenzo. Dovizioso was fifth, 1.577sec from the top.

Lorenzo, who starts round eleven of 17 exactly one race win (25 points) behind Rossi, dominated the one hour session, which he finished 0.399sec in front of reigning six time MotoGP champion Rossi.

"It's a great thing to start the weekend in such a strong way and I've had a good sensation and feeling with my bike from the first moment today. This isn't usually the case so I'm really happy!" admitted Jorge, who now looks set to stay at Yamaha after Honda announced that both Pedrosa and Dovizioso will remain on factory RCVs for two more years.

"I like this track a lot; I've had three wins here in the past and I always feel confident riding here," added the double 2009 race winner. "We need to work a little to improve the feeling with the front tyre on the entry to the corner and also we have a bit of work to do for the anti-wheelie, but I think we're in very good shape.

"I am happy to be back on my bike and to be back to full fitness, but we must keep focused and keep improving," declared Lorenzo, who had been carrying injuries since round eight in Laguna Seca.

Rossi, a winner of four races so far this season, admitted that the factory M1s were the class of the field on Friday, although he is seeking some subtle improvements for qualifying.

"Jorge and I were very fast from the start of this session which shows how good our bike is and what a great job Yamaha has done back in Japan," said the Italian. "We've worked well and we've already shown some interesting lap times today.

"The setting isn't perfect yet though so we need to work more, especially on the tyres because this track is very hard on both the front and rear. I hope the surface improves as more rubber is laid down because at the moment the grip isn't great.

"I'm really sorry that Stoner isn't here, I would always rather have my rivals to race against and I would like to wish him all the best; I hope he's back soon," added the 30-year-old.

Brno sees the start of a new rule, which states that all riders may use a maximum of just five engines for the remaining seven races - like most of the paddock Rossi and Lorenzo each had three engines 'sealed' by race control last night for future use.

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