Five days removed from the first turn debacle at Phillip Island that effectively ended his title hopes, Fiat Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo stormed to the top of Friday practice on a sultry day at the Sepang Circuit outside the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.Less than a week ago, Lorenzo threw away a possible crown when he crashed into Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden in the first corner of the Australian Grand Prix. The gap that was 18 points when he arrived on Phillip Island ballooned to 38 as the series arrived for its penultimate round in Malaysia. Now Rossi needs to finish only fourth or better in the season's final two races to secure his seventh premier class title and ninth overall.Today's free practice, held in 90 degree heat with 66% humidity,  was dominated by the top riders in the championship,  Rossi and Lorenzo, Ducati Marlboro's Casey Stoner, and Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa. Rossi led most of the session until Stoner went to the top with about 25 minutes to go. Rossi would never regain the top spot and would slip to fourth.Lorenzo's push came with just over five minutes remaining in the hour. In his final stint, the Majorcan came within .018 secs. of Stoner, then bettered his time on the next go-around to gap Stoner by .142 secs. On his final lap, Stoner came back at him and closed the difference to a mere .064 secs."I am riding quite aggressive, I feel quite well on the bike, so I have a lot of hopes for this race, but, you know, as all the races, the other riders, they are pushing very much and they are in the high level, so to beat them is always difficult, also if you are in the maximum," Lorenzo said. As for Rossi being fourth fastest, Lorenzo pointed out that Rossi didn't use the soft rear tire, which Rossi confirmed."The first practice is not so bad," Rossi said. "Also the position and the difference from the top is quite high, but is because we work just with the old tires,  because we want to try to understand the behavior of the bike when the tire start to slide a lot. So for this reason I'm fourth and I am more than half second to the top, but I'm quite confident for tomorrow because already the setting is good, so we start in a good way. We need to find some more rear grip, because I slide a bit too much, entry and acceleration, so for tomorrow we will work on the maps and also on the setting of the bike."Pedrosa, who never held the top spot, was a solid third and .514 secs behind Lorenzo, with Rossi fourth at another tenth.Andrea Dovizioso rode the second Repsol Honda to the fifth fastest time in front of Rizla Suzuki's Loris Capirossi, the Italian who was forced to use a sixth motor in last week's Australian GP after he'd run out of his allotted five for the final seven races.Then came San Carlo Honda Gresini's Toni Elias, the Spaniard who's the subject of much paddock conjecture. He's believed to have a deal in place to ride on the Moto2 team of Sito Pons, but is hoping to stay in MotoGP with the Scot Honda team. The situation is fluid.Ducati Marlboro's Nicky Hayden finished with the eighth fastest time at a gap of 1.246 seconds to Lorenzo. Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Colin Edwards was .3 secs. behind Hayden.In his last visit to Sepang as a MotoGP rider, Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen clocked the tenth fastest time.

Results:

1. Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) 2:02.180

2. Casey Stoner (Ducati) 2:02.244

3. Dani Pedrosa (Honda) 2:02.758

4. Valentino Rossi (Yamaha) 2:02.864

5. Andrea Dovizioso (Honda) 2:03.142

6. Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) 2:03.253

7. Toni Elias (Honda) 2:03.294

8. Nicky Hayden (Ducati) 2:03.426

9. Colin Edwards (Yamaha) 2:03.739

10. Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) 2:03.763

MotoGP Headlines

Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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