Casey Stoner takes out his Repsol Honda bike on the first day of practice for the Japanese MotoGP

Story highlights

Dani Pedrosa quickest in practice for Sunday's Japanese MotoGP at Motegi

Runaway title leader and fellow Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner second fastest

Stoner has 44-point lead over Jorge Lorenzo as he closes on second world title

Motegi circuit resurfaced after March's earthquake and tsunami in Japan

CNN  — 

Championship leader Casey Stoner was edged by Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa on the first day of practice Friday for the Japanese MotoGP as he closed on a second world title.

Stoner topped the time sheets in the first session at Motegi but had to give second best to the Spaniard on the second runs. The third Repsol Honda rider, Andrea Dovizioso, was third fastest to underline their dominance ahead of qualifying and Sunday’s race.

Stoner has a commanding 44-point lead over reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo, who was fifth fastest in practice on his Yamaha, and believes he can go faster in Saturday’s qualifying.

“The bike felt pretty good this morning and then this afternoon we started the session on pretty much the same setting that we ended

on this morning, it felt ok but we felt we could improve,” he told the official MotoGP website.

Aussie Stoner has won eight races this season and claimed nine pole positions as he bids to add to his 2007 championship triumph with Ducati.

Pedrosa, who is fourth in the standings, recorded a best time of one minute 46.790 seconds. “We did a good job today,” he said.

Lap times were faster than the corresponding event last year due to the new surface which was laid after damage was caused to the Motegi track during the earthquake and tsunami of March 11.

“The grip is much better than before and this is one of the reasons why the lap times have improved quite a lot already from last year,”

added Pedrosa.

After the tragic events in March, the Japanese round looked in danger of being scrapped, but MotoGP’s big name stars have turned out in full although several arrived late at the circuit.