Dani Pedrosa emerged fastest after a unpredictable Friday practice session for the German Grand Prix at the Sachsenring, which ended with the Repsol Honda rider leading the factory Ducatis of Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden.
Stoner led most of the session, with Pedrosa moving to the front with twelve minutes to go and improving several times to stay ahead of the Australian by 0.274sec. Hayden meanwhile made a late lunge up the order to be 0.462sec from the top.
Another American, Ben Spies, added to the surprises by being the top Yamaha rider in fourth place - despite never riding at the Sachsenring before! The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider recovered from an early trip through the gravel to lap 0.668sec from Pedrosa.
The top Italian was rookie Marco Simoncelli, who claimed a late fifth for San Carlo Honda Gresini, on a day when world championship leader Lorenzo, winner from pole at the past three races, could only manage sixth position.
The Spaniard was 0.703sec from Pedrosa and only 0.02sec quicker than returning Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi.
The reigning nine time world champion, who has missed the last four races due to a broken right leg, was making his MotoGP return one month sooner than he had initially predicted - and finished the session with a big smile on his face.
The 31-year-old Italian, who expected his April shoulder injury to be more of a problem in terms of riding than the June leg injury, briefly led the session in the opening minutes on his way to seventh place, having completed 29 laps.
Completing the top ten were Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda), Marco Melandri (Honda Gresini) and Andrea Dovizioso.
Repsol Honda rider Dovizioso looked to suffer a technical problem on his very first lap and, having cruised slowly back to the pits, had to wait a further 15 minutes before returning to the track.
The Italian, who may well have been riding his spare bike, finished the session0.879sec from Pedrosa on a day when the top 13 (Colin Edwards) were all within one second.
As well as Rossi, Alex de Angelis also returns to MotoGP this weekend, in place of the injured Hiroshi Aoyama at Interwetten Honda. The Sammarinese, who spent two seasons at Honda Gresini before being forced to join Moto2 this year, finished the session 17th and last, but only 1.580sec from Pedrosa.
The weather was hot and sunny on Friday, but there is a real threat of rain on Saturday.
8. de Puniet
17. de Angelis