The four Japanese MotoGP manufacturers were once again forced to watch a Ducati sit on top of the timesheets at their home event, as Casey Stoner set the quickest lap time during Friday free practice at Motegi.

Ducati - which has won the last three Japanese Grands Prix, albeit with former rider Loris Capirossi - saw all four of its Bridgestone-shod Desmosedici finish inside the top nine, after an opening day divided into one wet and then one almost dry session.

Stoner - who needs to reduce his current 87 point deficit to Valentino Rossi to at least 75 on Sunday if he is keep his slim title chances alive - finished the day just 0.073secs ahead of Honda's Dani Pedrosa, with third-placed Rossi 0.316secs further back for Yamaha.

"This morning we struggled to find rear grip on the wet track and we couldn't understand why, so this afternoon it was a case of taking our time to get the setting right and eventually we found a decent feel," said the reigning world champion, who was nonetheless third fastest this morning.

"We have a few areas to improve on and one of the things we tried towards the end of this afternoon proved to be a blind alley, so that cost us some time. Basically we tried a new tyre but it was spinning up a lot on the rear and forcing me wide on the brakes. We need to make up for that tomorrow and a dry day would certainly help!

"My wrist is feeling pretty good here - much better than it has for the last two races anyway, only in the dry it is a little bit more difficult, in the wet no problems. I didn't use any bandage I preferred not to because I have not the same movement. If I can I won't use it," he added.

Team-mate Marco Melandri, who will join Kawasaki next season, was eighth fastest by the end of the afternoon.

"This morning we had a lot of problems - we weren't totally prepared with the electronics and I was running wide for the first four or five laps," he recalled. "However, in the afternoon things went much better. We still have a few things to work on but the weekend has started out positively and I think that trend can carry through to the race.

"Now we'll see if we have another two sessions in the wet but at least it looks as though it will be dry for Sunday. If that's the case we have an idea about tyre choice and even though we have some way to go with the bike I can say I'm happy today," declared the Italian.


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