The first Silverstone appearance by the modern breed of four-stroke MotoGP prototypes finished with title leader Jorge Lorenzo setting the pace during Friday free practice for the British Grand Prix.

Silverstone hadn't held a round of the motorcycle grand prix world championship since 1986, after which it moved to Donington Park, and a cloudy first hour began with Randy de Puniet making the most of a recent track day to lead the early running around the fast, but bumpy, circuit.

The Frenchman quickly brought the leading lap down from 2min 15sec to 2min 8.6sec, before Casey Stoner took over with the first 2min 7sec lap. The aggressive looking de Puniet then returned to the top and brought the best lap into the 2min 6sec bracket just before the halfway mark.

The LCR Honda rider remained at the head of the reduced 16-rider field - following world champion Valentino Rossi's leg injury - until Stoner put his Ducati back in front by just 0.03sec with 22 minutes to go.

Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso then outpaced Stoner by a similarly small amount and the last quarter of an hour started with Dovizioso, Stoner and de Puniet all covered by less than 0.1sec.

But Lorenzo trounced all three of them as the Fiat Yamaha rider - who starts round five with a 25 point lead over Dani Pedrosa - became the first rider into the 2min 5sec.

The closing minutes saw the long-threatened rain finally start to fall, confirming double 2010 race winner Lorenzo as fastest with a best lap time of 2min 5.991sec.

That was just 0.142sec in front of Stoner, with Dovizioso - who had his inside leg dangling and rear wheel in the air as he narrowly avoided ramming a Pramac Ducati - ranked 0.356sec from the #99 in third.

de Puniet was ultimately caught but he still claimed fourth, 0.448sec from Lorenzo.

A new circuit should give the rookies a better chance to shine and Ben Spies made the most of the opportunity by claiming fifth place for Monster Yamaha Tech 3, albeit 1.2sec behind fellow M1 rider Lorenzo.

Mugello winner Pedrosa was third fastest halfway through session, but slipped back to sixth by the flag, with Marco Melandri (Gresini Honda) seventh, Aleix Espargaro (Pramac Ducati eighth, Marco Simoncelli (Gresini Honda) ninth and Nicky Hayden (Ducati Marlboro) tenth.

Slower to adapt to the circuit were veterans Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki), who were left just twelfth and 15th. Mika Kallio, who has been battling a shoulder injury since Le Mans, was 16th and last, just over four seconds from Lorenzo.

Computer simulations had suggested that the wide and flowing Silverstone layout could become the fastest circuit on the present calendar, but lap times on Friday weren't as fast as expected.

The quickest circuit is presently Phillip Island in Australia, where Casey Stoner set an official 'best lap' at an average speed of 180.598km/h on his Ducati in 2008.

The official race lap record for Phillip Island is an average of 177.803km/h by Nicky Hayden, on a Honda, in the same year.

Lorenzo's average speed at Silverstone on Friday was 168.640km/h, still more than enough to test the 800cc motorcycles to their limits, and lap times are likely to drop further... providing the rain doesn't return.

The highest top speed on Friday was 310.79km/h by Pedrosa, whose factory RCV team-mate Dovizioso set a 309.54km/h to be next best.

Friday practice:

1. Lorenzo
2. Stoner
3. Dovizioso
4. de Puniet
5. Spies
6. Pedrosa
7. Melandri
8. Espargaro
9. Simoncelli
10. Hayden
11. Barbera
12. Edwards
13. Bautista
14. Aoyama
15. Capirossi
16. Kallio