Casey Stoner's quest for a third home Australian MotoGP victory in a row got off to a promising start with a close second place behind Valentino Rossi in Friday practice, although the Ducati rider was 'not that happy' with the session.

Stoner, who celebrates his 24th birthday today, led the early stages of the hour and stayed in second place after being dislodged by Rossi, climbing to within 0.135sec of the Italian on his last lap.

"I'm not that happy with today's session to be honest," Stoner declared. "The track conditions weren't good at all and we struggled for traction, which is usually a strong point of our bike. We tried a few different settings, one of which gave us better rear grip but compensated in turning, which was otherwise really good.

"The front end was quite consistent throughout so it's just a case of working on the rear tomorrow and hoping that the track conditions improve so that we can find where the limits are.

"The weather is always a worry here and there was a point in the session this afternoon where it began to spot with rain just as I was heading into turn one and I came back in.

"I probably had my best setting at that point so the lap time could have been better but I think it has been a difficult day for everybody so we're not too concerned," he concluded.

Team-mate Nicky Hayden had a more 'mechanical' moment at turn one, with a big slide just before the halfway mark. The American finished the session in eleventh.

"I came out of the gate pretty fast but found it difficult to improve from there and I'm not really happy to be this far off the pace," said Hayden.

"In the past it has taken me a while to get up to speed here, even when I have had good results, so I'm not too worried but we definitely need to get the bike working better - especially over the bumps - and find some more edge grip.

"Hopefully we can take a big step tomorrow."


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