A late burst of speed saw Casey Stoner lead Friday free practice for the season-ending Valencia MotoGP - and on target for his third race win in a row.

The Ducati star spent much of the session searching for improved front-end feel, something he and his team achieved in the closing stages of the hour.

Stoner hit the top with six minutes to go, then rapidly built his advantage to a commanding 0.382sec over nearest rival Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha).

"We didn't start out with a very effective base setting and I didn't have a good feeling for the first few laps, confirmed Casey.

"Basically we didn't have enough weight on the front and because of the track conditions it was difficult to get heat into the tyre, especially on the right side because there aren't many right turns here.

"We knew what we needed from the bike so I kept coming in and making small adjustments until we found it.

"It's quite good, we still need to improve a lot but I'm really pleased with the job we did today and if we can make the improvements we have planned for tomorrow then we'll be in a very good situation."

Lorenzo and Stoner have both won four races this year, an amount beaten only by world champion Valentino Rossi, and Stoner starts the final round eleven points clear of fourth in the championship Dani Pedrosa. Honda rider Pedrosa was third fastest on Friday.

Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden suffering from similar set-up difficulties, but without managing to find a solution and was left tenth fastest.

"It was a tough session and I had certainly hoped to be a lot closer to the pace than that today," said Hayden, who was 1.649sec behind his team-mate. "It's a track I really like and we know the bike works well here so the team and I have a lot of work to do.

"Track temperatures were quite low and I had a really hard time getting the tyres working on the front and rear. It's also quite windy so I'm not sure if maybe a lot of sand and dirt has blown onto the track but it's definitely tricky to find grip out there. That's our target for tomorrow anyway."

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