Having thrilled the MotoGP world with a daring battle just before the summer break at Laguna Seca, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner picked up where they'd left off by dominating both of Friday's free practice sessions at Brno.
Rossi may have inflicted a shock defeat on Stoner in the USA, but it was his Australian opponent who ultimately 'triumphed' during day one in the Czech Republic - although his pace came at a price, in the form of an off-track scare at the end of the second session.
Rossi, who holds a 25 point lead over Stoner in the world championship standings, had lapped 0.129secs ahead of the Ducati Marlboro star in morning practice. But Stoner progressed at a faster rate during the afternoon hour and was a confident 0.627secs clear of the Fiat Yamaha star when he speared off-track with three minutes to go.
Reigning world champion Stoner halted his Desmosedici just before the air fence, but was helpless to prevent Rossi propelling his M1 - thought to feature improved electronics this weekend - to within 0.179secs of his fastest lap in the dying moments.
As in the Laguna Seca race, the rest of the MotoGP field could only play a distant supporting role.
Honda Gresini's Shinya Nakano - making his debut on a 2008 factory spec (valve-spring) RC212V this weekend, a bike which will form the basis of Honda's 2009 satellite machine - took his new equipment to third in FP1, one second behind the top two, and kept that 'best of the rest' position for much of the afternoon.
However, Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi snatched the honour in the closing stages, as the Italian lapped 0.769secs slower than former team-mate Stoner. Nakano finished 0.997secs from the top, with rookie team-mate Alex de Angelis just 0.036secs slower on the '08 satellite bike. Chris Vermeulen completed an encouraging day for Suzuki with sixth place.
After a torrid time at the US Grand Prix, Michelin suffered further misery during day one at the resurfaced Brno circuit, with only Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards able to crack the top ten in either session. The Texan was ninth in FP1 and seventh in FP2, 1.441secs from the top.
John Hopkins, making his MotoGP return from leg injuries sustained at Assen in late June, was a solid eighth fastest for Kawasaki - at a circuit where he finished a career-best second for Suzuki, behind Stoner, one year ago. Alice Ducati riders Toni Elias and Sylvain Guintoli made the most of Desmosedici horsepower and Bridgestone grip to secure ninth and tenth places.
Outside of the top ten, Michelin riders Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha), Andrea Dovizioso (JiR Team Scot), James Toseland (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) filled positions 11 to 14 - de Puniet falling early in the afternoon and Toseland towards the end.
The desperate problems suffered so far this season by Marco Melandri and Antony West were brutally highlighted by the fact that they were the only Bridgestone riders left outside of the top ten today. Melandri was 15th for Ducati, with West 17th and last on his Kawasaki.
Former world championship leader Dani Pedrosa looked a shadow of his usual self on his return from hand and ankle injuries, the lone Repsol Honda rider - following Nicky Hayden's Supermoto injury - being left a demoralising 17th and 16th during the two track sessions.
5. de Angelis
14. de Puniet