Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi got things started at the Le Mans Circuit in France today, the Italian putting in his best lap right at the end to lead free practice for Sunday's French Grand Prix.Rossi lapped at 1:34.402 to narrowly best Marlboro Ducati's Casey Stoner, the Australian .106 of a second behind after leading the way until Rossi threw down his last-lap effort."I'm really happy about this practice and especially about my last lap, which was very quick," Rossi said in a team release. "During the test after Jerez we got a better understanding of the problems we had and managed to improve our setting a lot, and that's where we've started from today. It's good to be this fast already. Unfortunately I still have some pain in my shoulder in the two or three hard braking areas, but I hope with the adrenaline tomorrow and Sunday it will be better and won't cause a problem. Our bike is historically very good here and it feels great in the twisty parts especially, so we're hopeful for a good weekend."Rossi's teammate, the championship leader and last year's French Grand Prix winner Jorge Lorenzo ended the session third, the Spaniard also in the 1:34s with his 1:34.542 just .140 off Rossi's best.Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso had a good day, the Italian ending up the top Honda rider in fourth, but just .223 of a second behind Rossi."I'm happy about how we started here at Le Mans," Dovizioso said in a Repsol release. "I didn't do the maximum number of laps this afternoon because we were working in the garage to make some changes to the settings - but I had three laps where I could push and I'm happy with my lap times and the feeling with the bike. At the beginning of the session we were working on the power control settings and making some adjustments to improve the rideability, and I'm confident we're working in the right direction. Le Mans is a track that I like and it's really a pleasure to ride with this nice weather. Long may it continue."Dovizioso's teammate Dani Pedrosa was next, the final rider in the 1:34s. He led a trio of Americans. Monster Tech 3 Yamaha's Colin Edwards was sixth, the Texan one spot better than Nicky Hayden."I am not as happy or comfortable as I thought I would be at this track," Edwards said in a team release. "I know this is a good track for me and also the Yamaha, but at the moment I just don't have the comfort level to enable me to push as hard as I know I can. I don't feel comfortable going into the corner and on the exit I'm losing too much. I had the same sort of issue at the last two races and even though I've got a completely different balance on the bike now, I still seem to be struggling. I need the bike to be a bit smoother and less nervous. We can make it better and I know my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3 will figure something out because they always do. I don't think the set-up is that far away, but I just need to refine it. This is a massive race for Tech 3 and Monster, so I'm determined to improve and put on a good show on Sunday."Hayden rode the second Marlboro Ducati to seventh with Ben Spies right behind him in eighth. The three Americans were separated by just .202 of a second with Spies riding for the first time at the French track and within a second of Rossi."For some reason whenever I come to Le Mans nothing comes to me real easy and that was certainly the case for a bit today," Hayden said. "For the last run the team did a great job, changing a few things with the electronics to get more traction and less pumping and also a change to the rear shock that improved the feeling quite a lot. That gave me a half second over the last couple of laps and the feeling was a lot better. We're still a long way from the front group, but I definitely feel better after that last run and hopefully we found a direction. I always expect a hard weekend here and this one won't be any different, but I'm feeling positive after today."Pramac Ducati's Aleix Espargaro and San Carlo Honda's Marco Melandri rounded out the top 10 in today's session.

Friday Practice

1.                  Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 1:34.402

2.                  Casey Stoner (Ducati) 1:34.508

3.                  Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 1:34.542

4.                  Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 1:34.625

5.                  Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 1:34.989

6.                  Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 1:35.089

7.                  Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 1:35.223

8.                  Ben Spies (Yamaha) 1:35.291

9.                  Aleix Espargaro (Ducati) 1:35.450

10.                  Marco Melandri (Honda) 1:35.643

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