Jorge Lorenzo nudged compatriot Dani Pedrosa from the top of the Jerez timesheets on his final lap of opening practice for their home Spanish MotoGP, the first European round of the 2013 season.
Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa was quick from the off, while Lorenzo spent most of the 45-minute session in second. The reigning double champion then turned up the heat in the closing minutes and ultimately put his Yamaha just 0.003s under Pedrosa's best as the chequered flag was waving.
Lorenzo, who celebrates his 26th birthday on Saturday and will have the final turn officially renamed in his honour on Saturday, set a best time of 1m 39.701s. That is already under the official race record, but one-second off Lorenzo's own pole record from 2008.
Both Lorenzo and Pedrosa are former Jerez MotoGP winners.
After an inspiring Yamaha return in Qatar, then a forgettable weekend in Texas, the return to familiar European territory suited Valentino Rossi, who moved steadily up the timesheets to third position, 0.366s from Pedrosa.
Rossi finished second fastest to Cal Crutchlow at the pre-season Jerez test and the Englishman, the leading satellite rider so far this year, again took the fight to the factory riders. Crutchlow was as high as second this morning, on his way to a close fourth place, +0.412s.
The home Spanish riders currently fill the top three places in the 2013 title standings. Lorenzo and Pedrosa's rookie team-mate Marc Marquez - who became MotoGP's youngest ever winner last time in Austin - are tied at the top, with Pedrosa eight points back in third.
Marquez, who experienced his toughest winter test at Jerez, was no higher than tenth for much of the session - then climbed the order to claim fifth (+0.784s). The Moto2 champion was the final rider within one-second of Lorenzo.
Nicky Hayden, beaten by new team-mate Andrea Dovizioso in the opening events of the year, made a positive start to the European campaign with sixth place (+1.021s). Satellite Honda riders Stefan Bradl and Alvaro Bautista followed, plus ever impressive top CRT rider Aleix Espargaro (Aspar), with Dovizioso completing a top ten covered by 1.023s.
Close behind Dovi on the timesheets was Pramac's lone rider Andrea Iannone and wild-card Michele Pirro.
Former Gresini CRT racer and current Ducati test rider Pirro is making the first of three 2013 wild-card appearances for Ducati. The Italian, who is race-testing a new chassis and engine management system, was 1.625s from the top in opening practice.
Pramac Ducati's Ben Spies is missing the event in order to undergo further rehabilitation on his shoulder. The Texan has not been replaced. Pirro's status remains as a wild-card in order to test the new parts, rather than use Spies' engines.
Tech 3 rookie Bradley Smith was the slowest of the manufacturer riders in 17th, with Cardion AB's Karel Abraham 22nd on his return from a broken collarbone. PBM's Michael Laverty rounded out the 24 rider field.
Friday practice (1):
1. Jorge Lorenzo
2. Dani Pedrosa
3. Valentino Rossi
4. Cal Crutchlow
5. Marc Marquez
6. Nicky Hayden
7. Stefan Bradl
8. Alvaro Bautista
9. Aleix Espargaro
10. Andrea Dovizioso
11. Andrea Iannone
12. Michele Pirro
13. Hector Barbera
14. Randy De Puniet
15. Hiroshi Aoyama
16. Colin Edwards
17. Bradley Smith
18. Yonny Hernandez
19. Danilo Petrucci
20. Claudio Corti
21. Bryan Staring
22. Karel Abraham
23. Lukas Pesek
24. Michael Laverty