Dani Pedrosa got his 100th GP off to a perfect start by claiming the fastest time in this morning's opening free practice session at the Le Mans circuit in France.
The Spaniard topped the timesheets on his 30th and last lap to edge out Italian Valentino Rossi with a best time of 1.35.699.
Pedrosa's best time lifted some of the gloom around Honda following a miserable start to the new 800cc MotoGP era. The new RC212V has still to win a race in 2007 and has been easily outpaced by rivals Ducati and Yamaha.
But in a much needed morale boost, Honda made a welcome return to form this morning, with Repsol Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden claiming the third best time, while Carlos Checa was fourth on the LCR Honda.
It was Pedrosa who took the honours though on a dull grey first morning in Le Mans, venue for round five of the MotoGP world championship.
Pedrosa had first moved to the top of the standings with 17 minutes elapsed with a best of 1.36.818 on his ninth lap. He was barely outside of the top three throughout the 60-minute session, and returned to the top with six minutes remaining with the first sub 1.36s lap. He logged a 1.35.994 and on his next lap he went marginally faster with a 1.35.942 on his 26th lap.
He looked like being denied the fastest time with Rossi mounting a brilliant late surge, with the seven-times world champion largely anonymous in the opening 45 minutes.
Rossi, who needs one more podium to equal Mick Doohan's premier class record of 95 top three finishes, climbed to the top of the timesheets right at the death with a best of 1.35.770 before Pedrosa reclaimed the fastest time in a session that saw the top ten split by just 0.777s.
Third place went to Hayden as he too mounted an impressive late challenge. The American had only been as high as seventh with 25 minutes remaining when he logged a 1.36.960. But his 1.35.908 rocketed him to third place on a track where he has never claimed a top four finish.
Checa was fourth to give his own battered confidence a lift. The Spanish veteran had climbed to the top of the timesheets shortly before the halfway point when he clocked a best of 1.36.622. He ended with a best of 1.35.937.
Current world championship leader Casey Stoner was fifth fastest with a best time of 1.35.951. The Aussie looked on course for at least a top three time when late on he clocked the best time through the first three sections of the famous Le Mans circuit.
But he missed out in the tight and twisty last section and on a circuit with no long straight for the Ducati GP7 to utilise its huge top speed advantage, Stoner's bike was only 10th fastest. Loris Capriossi's GP7 was second fastest with a best speed of 174.79mph but the Italian was only 12th fastest on times. Fastest bike this morning was John Hopkins' Suzuki GSV-R. Equipped with a revised V4 motor for better mid-range acceleration, the American's GSV-R clocked a best speed of 178.76mph. Hopkins was eighth fastest while Marco Melandri ended in a somewhat disappointing ninth quickest.
The Italian first topped the timesheets with just 11 minutes gone when he clocked a 1.37.223. He then knocked Checa off the top just after the 30-minute mark with a 1.36.497. On his next lap he ran off track at the Garage Vert corner having out-braked himself on the Gresini Honda. He was quickest again with 11 minutes remaining with a 1.36.137 but couldn't better that benchmark to slip down the rankings.
American Colin Edwards was seventh and he too spent a spell at the top of the timesheets.
He climbed to the top of the leaderboard on his 16th lap with 24 minutes remaining with a 1.36.473. He was quicker again on his next lap with a 1.36.386, showing his liking for the Le Mans track where he claimed his first Yamaha podium in 2005.
In a superb run, Edwards' again better his time on his third lap with a 1.36.163, and he was set to go faster again on the fourth lap of his stint when he a massive rear slide at the Musee corner cost him.