Valentino Rossi emerged fastest in the opening free practice session for the Australian Grand Prix at Phillip Island, beating local hero Casey Stoner to the top spot.
Determined to respond after his poor weekend in Portugal, Rossi took first place from early pacesetter Stoner (Ducati) after a quarter of an hour, and remained on top thereafter. Stoner stayed in second, 0.135 second behind, having narrowed the gap in the final minutes.
Equally good news for Rossi was that his Yamaha teammate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo had a tough afternoon. The Spaniard was a second off Rossi's pace, and his session ended with a minor fall at the Honda hairpin four minutes from the end. That left him sixth.
Dani Pedrosa took third for Honda, pushing Gresini Honda rider Alex de Angelis back to fourth.
The Tech 3 Yamaha riders sandwiched Lorenzo in fifth and seventh. In one of his strongest performances of the season, James Toseland had been in the top six early on, but dropped a few places after falling at MG corner. He pushed the bike across the infield to get back to the pits, then rejoined to reclaim seventh behind Colin Edwards and Lorenzo.
Niccolo Canepa is receiving treatment in the track's medical centre after hurting his right elbow in a heavy crash at the first corner. His Pramac Ducati teammate Mika Kallio had a much less dramatic fall at the Honda hairpin, and was able to rejoin to take ninth.
Following a wet and windy build-up to the race, the riders had feared that practice would be marred by poor weather. But the skies cleared today and the session took place in near perfect conditions.
Pos Rider Bike Time Gap
1. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m31.032s
2. Casey Stoner Ducati 1m31.167s + 0.135s
3. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m31.528s + 0.496s
4. Alex de Angelis Gresini Honda 1m31.786s + 0.754s
5. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m31.846s + 0.814s
6. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m32.077s + 1.045s
7. James Toseland Tech 3 Yamaha 1m32.255s + 1.223s
8. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m32.502s + 1.470s
9. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 1m32.572s + 1.540s
10. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 1m32.606s + 1.574s
11. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m32.771s + 1.739s
12. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m32.808s + 1.776s
13. Toni Elias Gresini Honda 1m33.304s + 2.272s
14. Marco Melandri Hayate Kawasaki 1m33.422s + 2.390s
15. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 1m33.504s + 2.472s
16. Gabor Talmacsi Scot Honda 1m33.818s + 2.786s
17. Niccolo Canepa Pramac Ducati 1m34.546s + 3.514s