Lorenzo backed up his brilliant Qatar debut, where he netted pole position and second in the race, by edging out none other than Fiat Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi during a closely contested opening day.

The reigning double 250cc world champion put his Michelin-shod M1 just 0.043secs clear of Rossi's sister Bridgestone-backed machine after the two hour-long sessions, while Tech 3's Colin Edwards completed an excellent day for Yamaha with third position on his spring-valve machine - having been fastest of all in the morning.

Also with good reason to smile was 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden, back on a 2008 RC212V after his Qatar 'misadventure' with the '07. The Repsol Honda rider was third fastest this morning, then took command of the afternoon session just before the halfway mark on his way to an eventual fourth place.

One of Hayden's bikes is fitted with the new chassis, taken to third position by Dani Pedrosa at Qatar, while the other has the older design with which Hayden was fastest of all at the official Jerez test (using a qualifying tyre). The factory Hondas are still powered by the '07 spring-valve engine.

Pedrosa may have been unable to replicate the speed of countryman Lorenzo, or team-mate Hayden, but the 2007 MotoGP World Championship runner-up will perhaps be content with a close fifth position, within half a second of bitter rival Lorenzo, as he chases his first Jerez win in the premier-class.

Meanwhile Qatar winner, world champion and pre-event favourite Casey Stoner saw his Friday progress stunted by a heavy fall.

Second fastest to Edwards this morning, Stoner had survived some wheel-shaking moments early in the afternoon session, but was finally caught out when the front of his Desmosedici folded through a fast left-hander leading into the stadium section, just before the halfway mark.

The Australian and his factory Ducati were sent sliding off into the gravel, where the #1 machine flipped several times before coming to a halt, while Casey was able to walk away without apparent harm, before emerging back on track ten minutes later.

But the 22-year-old - injured during testing at Jerez in November, but fastest of all during the wet BMW award at the February test - was ultimately left in sixth position and was the only rider to lap slower in the afternoon than the morning, on a day when he and Rossi were the only Bridgestone riders in the top eight.

JiR Team Scot's Andrea Dovizioso was the second best rookie, albeit some six places behind Lorenzo, with fellow MotoGP newcomer James Toseland recovering to eighth after an early fall from his Tech 3 M1.

Loris Capirossi was the lead Rizla Suzuki rider in ninth, while rookie Alex de Angelis completed a top ten covered by 0.868secs.

A sour day for Kawasaki saw John Hopkins finish 14th and Anthony West 17th, while Marco Melandri did little to ease the growing pressure on his shoulders with 15th place on the second factory Ducati.

Melandri's former Gresini team-mate Toni Elias was 18th and last after a nightmare start to his home event.

Friday practice:

1. Lorenzo
2. Rossi
3. Edwards
4. Hayden
5. Pedrosa
6. Stoner
7. Dovizioso
8. Toseland
9. Capirossi
10. de Angelis
11. de Puniet
12. Vermeulen
13. Nakano
14. Hopkins
15. Melandri
16. Guintoli
17. West
18. Elias

 

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