For once, Marco Simoncelli was the calming influence in a MotoGP session as the San Carlo Gresini rider comfortably topped FP1 in Germany as many of his rivals crashed around him.

The first man to fall was championship leader Casey Stoner, losing the rear end of the Repsol Honda but escaping injury despite a nasty highside, before Toni Elias lost the front of his LCR Honda just two minutes later.

Valentino Rossi was the next to go down with the Ducati also losing front end grip. The only visible damage was a rip to his leathers as he slid along the tarmac and the Italian subsequently visited the medical centre for a check-up.

The session wasn't even halfway through when Dani Pedrosa joined the list of victims at turn 11. The fast right-hander follows a series of left-handed turns, indicating that cold tyres were the cause of the accidents. Almost simultaneously, Elias crashed for the second time, spearing into the gravel trap at turn one. With both bikes out of commission, the Spaniard was forced to sit out the rest of the session.

Amid the mayhem, Simoncelli was an ever-present at the top and eventually got down to a 1:22.823 with Stoner remounting to grab second on his final lap of the session. Jorge Lorenzo was one of the riders to stay out of trouble and he claimed third, just 0.223s off the pace.

Nicky Hayden gave Ducati a boost with the fourth fastest time, less than four tenths behind while Andrea Dovizioso took fifth ahead of the impressive Karel Abraham in sixth. Two more Ducatis followed with Hector Barbera and Randy de Puniet seventh and eighth, giving both riders a much-needed confidence lift.

Ben Spies and Colin Edwards completed a top ten covered by just 0.771s while Dani Pedrosa's accident forced him to settle for 11th, although his best lap was also within a second of the ultimate pace.

Alvaro Bautista was 12th ahead of Cal Crutchlow who was 1.339s back in 13th as he gets to grips with the tight, twisty Sachsenring. The thankfully uninjured Rossi was back in 14th with Hiroshi Aoyama, the erratic Elias, and Loris Capirossi completing the 17-man field.

Capirossi was riding for the first time since crashing heavily at Assen. After the first session though, the expreienced Italian decided to withdraw from the rest of the weekend, with Sylvain Guintoli stepping in.