Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa made his best start to a 2010 grand prix to date by leading the field during Friday practice for the German MotoGP.
Never higher than third after day one of the previous seven events, the Spaniard was a constant force to be reckoned with and concluded the hour with a 0.274sec advantage over Ducati's Casey Stoner.
Pedrosa - who won at the Sachsenring in 2007, but was injured when he fell from the lead of a wet 2008 race - starts this weekend 52 points behind title leader Jorge Lorenzo.
In contrast to Pedrosa, the Fiat Yamaha rider had his worst start to a 2010 grand prix with sixth on Friday (see separate story). Rain is a realistic possibility for Saturday.
“It's great because for the first time this season I've got the best time on Friday and this is a very positive step for us," said Pedrosa. "We normally struggle initially, but today we did a very good job in first practice and I'm very happy for this.
"It's also a good result because tomorrow it could rain and so it was very important to get the basic set-up fixed on the first day here. I hope we will have one more practice session in the dry tomorrow, but it looks likely that at least one session will be wet.
"Today we were focused mainly on trying the different Bridgestone tyre compounds available for the race, and we were able to be fast with the soft and also with the hard option. For tomorrow we need to keep working on the suspension and the electronics because I think we can still improve in some parts of the lap.”
Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso, third in the world championship, was 0.875sec back in tenth after losing the first quarter of the session due to an electrical problem.
"We had an electronics issue at the beginning of the session so we lost fifteen minutes, and this meant we couldn't get through all the set-up work that we had planned," he said.
"If the weather stays like this tomorrow and we can continue testing in dry conditions then I'm very confident about our chances of climbing nearer to the front and qualifying well.
"Dani's lap times were really fast today and he is the only one to have such a strong pace. We'll look to close the gap tomorrow.”