MOTEGI, JAPAN, OCT 12 - Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa topped the MotoGP time sheets on the first day of practice for Sunday's 15th round of the MotoGP World Championship at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit as he tries to keep the pressure on championship leader Jorge Lorenzo and his Yamaha.

The championship has been a two-rider fight ever since Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner suffered ligament damage to his right ankle at the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix. Today Stoner was a .8 of a second behind Pedrosa in his first outing since the incident and on a day when his bike quit on the second lap of the morning session. Much closer was title leader Lorenzo.

The Majorcan finished with a time that was .202 of a second slower than the 1:46.088 lap turned in by Pedrosa, the 2011 winner here. And Lorenzo was only a tenth up on the first of the satellite bikes, Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Andrea Dovizioso. With a 33 point lead, and four races remaining, Lorenzo can afford to be cautious, especially on a track that favors the Hondas on both acceleration and top speed. Still, come Sunday, it's again expected to be a two-rider race. And Pedrosa is looking forward to it, having won three of the last four MotoGP races, the hottest stretch of his MotoGP career

The battle just behind isn't as clear cut. LCR Honda MotoGP's Stefan Bradl finished the day fourth fastest in his first visit to Motegi on a MotoGP machine. The German was a little over a tenth off the pace of Dovi and in with a tightly packed bunch: Bradl and the next five riders were covered by little more than half a second.

Ducati Marlboro's Valentino Rossi was fifth fastest and .6 behind Pedrosa on a track where he's done well in the past. Teammate Nicky Hayden finished with the tenth fastest time, from the first session, while riding with a newly discovered crack in the wrist on his right hand, the same hand that he'd broken in Misano a month ago. The wrist was a problem under hard braking, which Motegi is known for, and more so because the brakes on his Desmosedici weren't up to the task.

Yamaha's Ben Spies finished sixth having done his time on Bridgestone's harder rear tire. Many riders set their fast times on the softer rear. Stoner was a close seventh, San Carlo Honda Gresini's Alvaro Bautista was eighth, and Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Cal Crutchlow was ninth.

Motegi MotoGP Qualifying Results
1. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:46.088
2. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:46.190
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Yamaha) 1:46.292
4. Stefan Bradl (Honda) 1:46.428
5. Valentino Rossi (Ducati) 1:46.687
6. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:46.912
7. Casey Stoner (Honda) 1:46.978
8. Alvaro Bautista (Honda) 1:46.983
9. Cal Crutchlow (Yamaha) 1:46.984
10. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:47.551

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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