Jorge Lorenzo began his quest for a third MotoGP race victory in three weekends by leading Friday free practice for the Catalan round, at a scorching hot Barcelona.
Fiat Yamaha's title leader, fastest in every track session last weekend at Assen, concluded the hour with a 0.153sec home advantage over Ducati's Casey Stoner, with Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa making it two Spaniards in the top three with a best lap 0.372sec from Lorenzo.
Pedrosa, who starts round seven 47 points behind Lorenzo, only just got the better of Italian team-mate Andrea Dovizioso.
Ben Spies underlined just why he is tipped to replace Valentino Rossi at the factory Yamaha team next season - should the injured champion leave for Ducati - with fifth place for Tech 3 at a track he hasn't raced at.
Fellow rookie Aleix Espargaro also produced an excellent performance with sixth place for Pramac Ducati. Espargaro lives just five kilometres from the Circuit de Catalunya.
LCR's Randy de Puniet was the top satellite Honda in seventh, with Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden snatching a late eight after another relatively slow start to a race weekend.
Colin Edwards will need to explain why he is so far behind Spies, while Marco Simoncelli was tenth for San Carlo Honda Gresini. Team-mate Marco Melandri, who dislocated his shoulder and cracked his sternum in practice at Assen last weekend, returned to the track to claim 14th out of the 17 riders.
Loris Capirossi incurred the wrath of former team-mate Stoner - for holding up the Australian - on his way to eleventh for Rizla Suzuki, having been behind rookie team-mate Alvaro Bautista for large parts of the season. Home star Bautista was less than a tenth from Capirossi at the flag.
Aspar Ducati's Hector Barbera was the last of the full time riders, behind Melandri.
Fiat Yamaha have replaced injured world champion Rossi with test rider Wataru Yoshikawa from this weekend, while Hiroshi Aoyama - injured at Silverstone - is once again replaced at Interwetten Honda by HRC test rider Kousuke Akiyoshi.
35-year-old Akiyoshi, whose primary goal this weekend is to beat Yoshikawa, succeeded in first practice by just 0.258sec, but Akiyoshi's best lap was a sizeable 4.498sec behind Lorenzo.
41-year-old Yoshikawa (twelfth in his only previous MotoGP race start in 2002) worked with Rossi's crew chief Jerry Burgess, with the aid of a translator.
7. de Puniet