The first European MotoGP laps of 2011 took place on Friday morning at Jerez, when Casey Stoner set the pace during first free practice for the Spanish MotoGP, round two of this year's world championship.

Stoner, who won from pole on his Repsol Honda debut in Qatar, concluded the 45-minute session with a slim 0.028sec advantage over team-mate and home favourite Dani Pedrosa.

But the happiest man looked to be Valentino Rossi, who made a much more positive start to his second race weekend as a Ducati rider.

The seven time MotoGP champion, just seventh on his Desmosedici race debut in Qatar, was competitive from the off and finished in third place, half-a-second from Stoner and Pedrosa.

Another Italian, Marco Simoncelli, was fourth quickest on the factory spec-Gresini Honda, with Yamaha's reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo fifth fastest and 0.869sec from Stoner.

Lorenzo snatched home victory from countryman Pedrosa in a thrilling conclusion to last year's Jerez race.

The only faller during the session was third Repsol rider Andrea Dovizioso, who lowsided from his RCV through a fast right-hander in the closing seconds. The Italian was unhurt and finished the session in sixth.

Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies began the weekend in seventh, with fellow Texan Colin Edwards the top satellite-bike rider in eighth for Monster Yamaha Tech 3.

Ducati riders Randy de Puniet (Pramac) and Nicky Hayden (Marlboro) completed the top ten.

Jerez rookie Cal Crutchlow was 14th while MotoGP returnee John Hopkins was a 'close' 17th and last for Rizla Suzuki.

Hopkins, replacing the injured Alvaro Bautista and making his first GP appearance since 2008, lapped just a few tenths behind Pramac's Loris Capirossi and three seconds from Stoner.

Second MotoGP free practice takes place this afternoon.



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