Jorge Lorenzo made a strong start to his Malaysian Grand Prix weekend by beating Casey Stoner to the fastest time in Friday practice.
Just 0.064 seconds separated the Yamaha and the Ducati at the end of the session after a tight battle in the final minutes.
Stoner and the two Yamahas had all been within a single tenth of a second in the top three places going into the last 10 minutes of the session. But Stoner then pulled clear with a 2m02.322s lap that briefly put him almost half a second in front of his rivals, before Lorenzo first closed right in, then usurped the Australian at the head of the order on a 2m02.180s. Stoner improved his time on his final lap but remained 0.064s adrift of Lorenzo, who seems right back on form after his troubled Phillip Island weekend.
Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) ended up fourth as Dani Pedrosa improved and put his Honda in the top three late on, although fourth position will still suffice for the points leader this weekend as he bids to wrap up a seventh MotoGP title.
Andrea Dovizioso completed the top five on the second Honda, with Loris Capirossi and Chris Vermeulen suggesting that Suzuki will be in better shape at Sepang by taking sixth and 10th.
They were split by Toni Elias (Gresini Honda), Nicky Hayden (Ducati) and Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha).
Returnee Aleix Espargaro, who has been drafted back into the Pramac Ducati line-up while Niccolo Canepa recovers from his arm injuries, battled at the back of the field with Gabor Talmacsi's Scot Honda, with the Hungarian pipping the Spaniard to 16th in the final minutes.
Pos Driver Bike Time Gap
1. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha 2m02.180s
2. Casey Stoner Ducati 2m02.244s + 0.064s
3. Dani Pedrosa Honda 2m02.758s + 0.578s
4. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 2m02.864s + 0.684s
5. Andrea Dovizioso Honda 2m03.142s + 0.962s
6. Loris Capirossi Suzuki 2m03.253s + 1.073s
7. Toni Elias Gresini Honda 2m03.294s + 1.114s
8. Nicky Hayden Ducati 2m03.426s + 1.246s
9. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha 2m03.739s + 1.559s
10. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki 2m03.763s + 1.583s
11. Mika Kallio Pramac Ducati 2m03.785s + 1.605s
12. Alex de Angelis Gresini Honda 2m04.042s + 1.862s
13. Marco Melandri Hayate Kawasaki 2m04.274s + 2.094s
14. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda 2m04.664s + 2.484s
15. James Toseland Tech 3 Yamaha 2m05.218s + 3.038s
16. Gabor Talmacsi Scot Honda 2m05.289s + 3.109s
17. Aleix Espargaro Pramac Ducati 2m05.336s + 3.156s