Ducati Marlboro riders Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden finished Friday practice for the German MotoGP in a competitive, and closely matched, second and third.

After visiting three fast and flowing circuits in the last three rounds the pair worked hard to adapt the set-up of their machines to the slower circuit and both riders made their most significant progress on their final outing.

Stoner put a string of three sub-1'23 laps together to challenge for the top spot, only losing out to Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa by 0.274sec.

The Australian, who will join the factory Honda team in 2011, only lost out during the final sector of the lap.

"In general the bike felt pretty good for most of the session today but we need to make a few improvements," said Stoner. "As usual we seem to have one part of the bike working very well at the start and then when we try to improve in other areas we make the good part worse and struggle for a compromise.

"We tried both sets of tyres today - the harder compound and the softer - and did our fastest time on the hardest but without really finding out which is the more suitable for the race.

"The softer front was working well but we had some issues when we switched to the harder one, in particular it was wanting to tuck at the bottom of the hill, so that's another area we need to improve. In general, like I say, we're pretty happy with the bike - it's working well but we have work to do if we're going to get to where we want to be."

Hayden, meanwhile, put the best aspects of the base set-up of his two machines together for a final run that saw him improve by 0.8 seconds and charge up to third place. The American was then bumped down to fourth by countryman Ben Spies.

"All in all not a bad first day for us," said Hayden, who looks set to sign a new Ducati contract. "It was really important to get as much information as we could today, to try all the tyres and a couple of different set-ups because it looks like there's a good chance of rain tomorrow.

"We started out struggling quite a bit - right in the beginning it wasn't too good but I switched bikes and immediately got a better feeling. Actually one bike was better on the front, one bike was better on the rear so it was a case of finding a compromise.

"There are a couple of parts on the track where I am quite fast but a few sections where I'm losing a lot and every tenth counts around here - I mean, a lot of tracks you look for tenths but around here literally half a tenth can make a big difference.

"But it's a cool track, I like it, that fast corner out the back is a lot of fun. We'll just try to keep rolling."

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