Fiat Yamaha's Valentino Rossi overcame blistering heat and a dirty, greasy track to top Friday's free practice at the Sepang Circuit in Malaysia.On a day when the ambient temperature was 100 degrees, and the track temperature was 129, Rossi lapped the 3.45-mile circuit outside the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur in a time of 2:02.724 mins. It was a tenth faster than he'd gone here in Friday practice a year ago on the weekend that he clinched his ninth world championship. But it was slower than the 2009 Friday best of 2:02.180 mins. run by teammate Jorge Lorenzo. The difference was the heat and a dirty track, which hadn't gotten much use lately."It's been another good start for us here and we found a good setting straight away," Rossi said. "I am feeling very comfortable on the bike and so far my shoulder is okay here. The track is quite dirty, but that will get better and I love riding at this track, it's one of my favorites and I am always happy to be on the bike here. We are confident that we will be able to make some more improvements tomorrow and be in good shape to try for the front row tomorrow afternoon."Rossi, who holds the fastest lap of the circuit of 2:00.518 mins. set during qualifying last year, spent more time at the top than anyone else. The rider who Rossi displaced at the top was Andrea Dovizioso, the lone Repsol Honda representative. Dovi went to the top for the second time just past the halfway point in the one hour session and held it for about 17 mins. before Rossi set the best time of the day with about ten minutes to go.Dovi, who had the full attention of the Repsol Honda team, ended up second. Teammate Dani Pedrosa was back in Barcelona recovering from surgery to repair the left collarbone he'd broken in practice one week earlier in Japan. Pedrosa is expected back for next week's race at Phillip Island."I'm happy with this first session at Sepang because we were fast from the very beginning of the practice period," Dovizioso said." Today the conditions were really extreme in terms of the heat - even more than we're accustomed to here - so physically it was very hard. We started from a good base today however. We will continue work on set-up improvements and adjustments to the electronics to increase the stability at the front end under braking. But I think we have found the limit of the tires in these conditions, so I will also try to adapt my riding style to make further improvements to the lap time tomorrow. Overall we made a good start today."Championship leader Jorge Lorenzo, who will take his first premier class title if he finishes ninth or better on Sunday, was just under the 2:03 mark at 2:02.898 mins."Today conditions were quite difficult, with the high temperatures and a dirty track," Lorenzo said. "I'm happy though because I felt good on the bike, I rode fast and I was close to the first position. We rode with the old engine again today but maybe we will try the new one tomorrow. We need to work on the fourth sector, which is where we're losing time at the moment, so tomorrow we will concentrate on that and try to improve further."Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner was nearly half a second off Rossi's pace. The Australian, who was riding a two race winning streak into Sepang, had a return to his front end problems. Stoner crashed ten minutes into the session when he lost the front in turn four, though the damage was minimal. Teammate Nicky Hayden had an equally dispiriting day. Hayden finished 15th out of 16th, though only .787 sec. slower than Stoner. And Hayden was only 1.223 secs. slower than Rossi."I'm not really happy with the way things went today," Stoner said. "We had a small crash at the beginning of the session, so I had to switch bikes and do a lot of work to get it feeling better. Every time I went out there was some small problem and we seemed to take a while to find a reasonable setting. By the end I had established a good feeling and I wanted to make a better lap time on the second lap of my final run but I ran wide in turn one and that was that. We'll take this data and try to improve the bike for tomorrow. We seem to be struggling most of all with the rear, just like at Motegi, but once we solve that I'm sure we'll see major improvements with the rest of the bike." Said Hayden, "We have picked up where we left off in Japan, which is not a good thing. We struggled a lot, right from the beginning, over the bumps mainly. I have a lot of front chatter, we got rear chatter too, and I cannot carry any good corner speed. We're 1.2 seconds off the top, which may not seem that much, but the reality is that it is a lot when the field is as tight as it is right now. That kind of gap is pretty much going to send you to the back. We definitely need to do something for tomorrow because today was not good."Rizla Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista put in a strong showing in fifth, narrowly edging Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards. The difference was .055 sec. Edwards' teammate Ben Spies wasn't even a tenth slower than Edwards, but he was down in ninth. In between the teammates came Marco Melandri (San Carlo Honda Gresini) and Aleix Espargaro (Pramac Racing Ducati).LCR Honda's Randy de Puniet was tenth fastest.The Malaysian GP, the 15th of 18 championship rounds, will remain on the calendar for at least the next three years after races organizers agreed to terms with Dorna on the eve of the grand prix weekend.Friday Practice:

1. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2:02.724

2. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 2:02.833

3. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:02.898

4. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 2:03.160

5. Alvaro Bautista (Suzuki) 2:03.338

6. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 2:03.393

7. Marco Melandri (Honda) 2:03.438

8. Aleix Espargaro (Ducati) 2:03.471

9. Ben Spies (Yamaha) 2:03.477

10. Randy de Puniet (Honda) 2:03.539

11. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 2:03.680

12. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 2:03.717

13. Hector Barbera (Ducati) 2:03.760

14. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 2:03.769

15. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:03.947

16. Mika Kallio (Ducati) 2:04.023

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By Cycle News Staff

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