2007 MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner
dominated Friday night's free practice session for the Qatar Grand Prix, the first event of the 2010 season.
Winner of the last three MotoGP events at Qatar, and fastest in the pre-season test just over two weeks ago, it was hardly a surprise to see the Ducati star on top of the timesheets with the new 'big bang' Desmosedici - but the extent of his advantage raised eyebrows.
Just 0.049sec quicker than Rossi at the test, Stoner moved a massive 0.906sec clear of the reigning seven time MotoGP champion by the halfway mark of the hour - an advantage he held until Rossi pulled it back to 0.650sec with 15 minutes remaining.
Rossi then found a further tenth, but that wasn't enough to stop injured Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo
bumping the #46 back to third place in the closing minutes.
Lorenzo, runner-up to Rossi last season, then held onto second place despite falling from his factory M1, having set a best lap time 0.526sec from Stoner.
The Spaniard, who fractured his hand in a winter training accident, walked away unharmed from the fall and finished the session 0.002sec in front of Rossi - an outcome few would have predicted.
Andrea Dovizioso defended his newly gained status as the top Honda rider with a late fourth place, albeit 1.198sec behind Stoner, with Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden
also making late progress to sit fifth on the second factory Desmosedici.
Reigning World Superbike champion Ben Spies was holding third in the middle stages for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, before dropping back to sixth by the close of the hour. The impressive American was both the top rookie and top satellite rider.
Suzuki's new signing Alvaro Bautista produced arguably the surprise of the session with seventh on his MotoGP debut, while LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet
was an early frontrunner before settling into eighth.