Jorge Lorenzo set the fastest time in Friday practice for the Catalunya Grand Prix after a thrilling conclusion to the afternoon session which saw several riders challenging for first position. Surprisingly, the two Repsol Hondas weren't among them as they chose to run the hard tyres only but sensational performances from Alvaro Bautista and Hector Barbera left them in lofty positions in front of their home crowd.
Casey Stoner had set the pace in the morning session didn't lead at any stage in the afternoon, choosing to concentrate on race preparation, and it was left to Lorenzo to make the running, completing a succession of laps in the high 1m42 range.
With half an hour gone, Stoner's time was finally beaten by a Yamaha but it was Andrea Dovizioso, not Lorenzo, who did it with the Italian lowering the target time to a 1:42.627. Lorenzo was now back in third with teammate Ben Spies also sneaking ahead of him.
With five minutes still to go, the session came alive as Dovizioso improved again but the Tech 3 rider was outdone by Lorenzo who clocked a 1:42.511. A shock challenge then emerged in the form of Bautista who went two tenths faster for San Carlo Honda Gresini, the team who claimed pole position for this race last year.
Cal Crutchlow deposed his Tech teammate to take second in the dying stages but Bautista's failure to improve cost him, allowing Lorenzo to snatch top spot with a 1:42.099. The Spaniards ended the session first and second ahead of the Tech 3 duo while Hector Barbera finished a stunning fifth for Pramac Ducati.
Casey Stoner's decision not to use the soft tyres left him down in tenth but his session-leading time from the morning was good enough to place him sixth overall. Ben Spies was next up while Dani Pedrosa took eighth, as he only beat his FP1 time by 0.005s. Nicky Hayden was ninth fastest for the factory Ducati squad but Valentino Rossi was the slowest prototype rider in twelfth after struggling for rear grip.
Aleix Espargaro was the quickest of the CRTs in thirteenth while James Ellison ended the day in 20th on the Paul Bird Motorsport ART.