Jorge Lorenzo was boosted by making a strong start to his weekend in Motegi in the first practice session this morning.
The Spaniard was disappointed with how far off the pace of leaders Casey Stoner and Valentino Rossi he was in the season opener in Qatar two weeks ago. But he is hopeful of a much closer fight in Japan this weekend after Friday's first session.
Lorenzo finished the session third quickest, but was fastest for much of it and was able to lap consistently as quick as Stoner and Rossi.
"I'm so happy with this practice session because we often struggle a bit at the start of the weekend, but today this wasn't the case at all," said the Yamaha rider.
"I felt great from the start. My M1 felt good when braking, under acceleration and in the corners so I think we are in good shape and now I hope we can continue like this tomorrow, even if it rains.
"In fact, I am quite curious to see what happens in the rain and how the lap time is."