Dani Pedrosa dominated the first MotoGP practice session as the championship made its debut at Motorland Aragon.
The Friday morning session has been reinstated for this event to give the riders a chance to learn the Spanish track, which was a late substitute addition to the calendar when it became clear that the proposed Hungarian Grand Prix venue Balatonring would not be ready in time.
Pedrosa and Honda teammate Andrea Dovizioso led the way from the opening laps, and although Casey Stoner and Jorge Lorenzo briefly pushed Pedrosa back to third in the final 10 minutes, the Honda rider quickly responded to retake the top spot with a 1m50.506sec.
That put Pedrosa 0.7sec clear of the field for a while, until a great last lap from Nicky Hayden thrust the Ducati into second, 0.411sec down on Pedrosa. Lorenzo (Yamaha) also improved to go third, 0.011sec behind Hayden.
Stoner ended up fourth on the other Ducati, followed by impressive rookie Marco Simoncelli (Gresini Honda) and a low-key Valentino Rossi, whose Yamaha did not feature near the front this morning. Dovizioso was pushed back to eighth, behind Hector Barbera (Aspar Ducati) – the Spanish rookie showing well in practice once again – and just ahead of the Tech 3 Yamahas.
While several riders visited the circuit's ample run-off areas, the only man to crash was Aleix Espargaro, who seemed to be caught out by cold tires as he had a violent high-side at Turn 2 just three minutes into the session. He limped away but was able to rejoin on his spare Pramac Ducati later on.
The field is down to 16 riders this weekend, with Suzuki's Loris Capirossi on the sidelines following surgery to the hand damage he sustained in his first-lap tangle with Hayden at Misano.
Pos Rider Team Time Gap
1. Dani Pedrosa Honda 1m50.506s
2. Nicky Hayden Ducati 1m50.917s + 0.411s
3. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 1m50.928s + 0.422s
4. Casey Stoner Ducati 1m51.195s + 0.689s
5. Marco Simoncelli Gresini Honda 1m51.768s + 1.262s
6. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 1m51.769s + 1.263s
7. Hector Barbera Aspar Ducati 1m51.792s + 1.286s
8. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 1m51.845s + 1.339s
9. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 1m52.027s + 1.521s
10. Ben Spies Tech 3 Yamaha 1m52.141s + 1.635s
11. Marco Melandri Gresini Honda 1m52.321s + 1.815s
12. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 1m52.340s + 1.834s
13. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 1m52.752s + 2.246s
14. Alvaro Bautista Suzuki 1m52.822s + 2.316s
15. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 1m53.190s + 2.684s
16. Hiroshi Aoyama Interwetten Honda 1m53.512s + 3.006s