Aussie heroes Troy Bayliss and Garry McCoy gave the home fans plenty of reason to cheer this morning at Phillip Island, when they recorded the second and fourth fastest free practice times respectively.

Valentino Rossi led the session with a stunning lap some 0.3secs faster than Jeremy McWilliams' 2002 pole time, but it only put the Italian 0.233secs ahead of Ducati rider Bayliss, with his team-mate Loris Capirossi a further tenth behind in third.

But performance of the hour arguably came from Kawasaki mounted McCoy, the former GP winner lapping within 0.7secs of Rossi for fourth and putting him on target to repeat his front row start of one year ago on a two-stroke Red Bull Yamaha.

However, it later emerged that McCoy had used a qualifying tyre, and with team-mate Andrew Pitt down in 18th, the ZX-RR may be set for another difficult weekend after all... but few would bet against a 'McCoy special'.

Another Island specialist, McWilliams, was also on form - putting his Proton KR V5 a best ever 12th, one place behind Suzuki's Kenny Roberts, and nine places ahead of his team-mate Nobuatsu Aoki.

Regular frontrunners Max Biaggi and Sete Gibernau were fifth and eighth respectively - Gibernau walking away unharmed from a high-speed fall that severly damaged his RCV, while Repsol Honda rookie Nicky Hayden continued his run of form with sixth.

Aoki also fell, but is unlikely to ride this afternoon as he has x-rays on his neck.

First qualifying takes place this afternoon.

Friday free practice:

1. Rossi
2. Bayliss
3. Capirossi
4. McCoy
5. Biaggi
6. Hayden
7. Nakano
8. Gibernau
9. Checa
10. Ukawa
11. Roberts
12. McWilliams
13. Tamada
14. Barros
15. Edwards
16. Melandri
17. Haga
18. Jacque
19. Pitt
20. Hopkins
21. Aoki
22. Kiyonari
23. de Gea
24. Burns



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