Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, who has won two races this year but missed another three through injury, finished almost one-second clear of the field in this morning's first free practice session for the Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno.

The Spaniard dipped under the official lap record - and came close to breaking the pole record - as he finished 0.966sec ahead of team-mate and world championship leader Casey Stoner.

Stoner was the only rider within a second of Pedrosa, with Gresini Honda's Marco Simoncelli - who crashed at the end of the session - 1.080sec from the top.

Yamaha's reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo, Stoner's nearest title rival, was the leading non-Honda in fourth (+1.259sec), with the third Repsol machine of Andrea Dovizioso in fifth (+1.448sec).

Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies, who qualified second for his rookie Brno MotoGP race last year, was sixth fastest (+1.575sec) while Rizla Suzuki's decision to field an extra bike for John Hopkins, alongside Alvaro Bautista, proved to be a good one as the pair took seventh and eighth.

Hopkins, who claimed his best MotoGP finish of second in the 2007 Brno race, was 0.024sec ahead of Bautista. Hopkins finished tenth in the damp Jerez race earlier this year, while replacing the injured Bautista.

After a tough run of races before the summer break, rookie Cal Crutchlow was ninth and the top non-factory bike rider this morning. Unlike most circuits, the Englishman has raced at Brno before, helping him to finish a tenth of a second ahead of Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team-mate Colin Edwards.

Valentino Rossi was the leading Ducati rider in another tough session for the Italian bikes. Rossi finished in eleventh place (+2.491sec) with his GP11.1, which was followed on the timesheets by the GP11s of Randy de Puniet, Hector Barbera and Nicky Hayden.

Then same the Gresini Honda of Hiroshi Aoyama, followed by the Ducatis of local star Karel Abraham and Loris Capirossi.

LCR Honda's Toni Elias seemed to gain no advantage from the new tyre rules, which allow a wider choice of compounds, and was 18th and last (+3.873sec).

Friday practice (1):

1. Pedrosa
2. Stoner
3. Simoncelli
4. Lorenzo
5. Dovizioso
6. Spies
7. Hopkins
8. Bautista
9. Crutchlow
10. Edwards
11. Rossi
12. de Puniet
13. Barbera
14. Hayden
15. Aoyama
16. Abraham
17. Capirossi
18. Elias


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