Dani Pedrosa led the morning practice before rain halted any chance of improvement in the afternoon.
Showing much improved speed after his Motegi comeback from injury, Casey Stoner was second quickest on Friday at Sepang.
Jorge Lorenzo was third quickest on Friday at Sepang.
Yamaha's Ben Spies ended Friday in sixth position after some electronics issues in the morning.
Nicky Hayden ended Friday eighth quickest, and stated that his injured hand is feeling much better than at Motegi.
A wrong bike setting choice forced Valentino Rossi to lose valuable time in the morning session, and he ended up in 11th position.
Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa continued his strong form from the past two races by topping the morning MotoGP practice timesheets on Friday at the Sepang circuit in Malaysia. Showing a marked improvement from last weekend’s race at Motegi was Pedrosa’s teammate Casey Stoner, who appeared to quickly get up to speed and trail the leader by only 0.125 seconds. Yamaha Factory Racing’s Jorge Lorenzo is hoping that the morning practice results aren’t a sign of things to come in the race as he trailed the Repsol Honda duo by 0.161 seconds in third. Showers before the afternoon session doused the track, and although it quickly began drying, the pavement was still too wet to use slicks and too dry to use full wets, so the majority of the factory riders stayed in the garages after only venturing out for an exploratory lap. This meant the morning times held up, as lap times on the drying track were far slower.
Pedrosa knew the Friday afternoon rains at Sepang might throw a wrench in the setup plans, so his crew hastily ran through a lot of combinations in the morning MotoGP practice session. "We've been lucky to have the first practice in the dry to begin setting up the bike for the race because as we've seen in the last few days sooner or later it rains here,” said Pedrosa. “The track was a little dirty in the morning and the grip level quite poor, but the lap times were not so bad and the conditions will improve throughout the weekend. In the morning I had a lot of vibration in the rear which we think was a problem with the wheel balance. I did a sighting lap in the afternoon and it was full wet until turn 4 but from there, full dry, so we decided to stay in the pits. We will have to make good use of track time tomorrow morning to prepare the bike for qualifying and the race".
The Sepang circuit has a lot more right-hand turns that don’t put as much stress on Stoner’s injured left ankle, which he hopes will allow him to go quicker than his fifth place showing last weekend at the Motegi MotoGP race. “I’ve had a little bit more time on the bike now and it feels slightly more comfortable,” admitted Stoner on Friday. “Also, this track suits me a little bit better. It’s not quite the same grip levels as other circuits, so the bike moving around, it starting to feel a little bit more comfortable again. We’ve still got quite a lot of work to do, and I don’t think we’re anywhere near the pace we need to be. But it was a good start; we had a lot more left this morning, we could have gone a bit quicker. We’ll have to see as the weekend goes on how the weather’s going to be.”
Lorenzo was right with the Honda pair on Friday, and feels confident he’ll be there come Sunday's MotoGP race. “This morning has been great from the beginning, I’ve been competitive,” said the championship points leader. “More or less in the same pace as Dani and Casey. Casey is much more stronger here than in Japan. But this afternoon we couldn’t practice because of the weather.” Lorenzo is looking for better acceleration off the Sepang corners, and hoping that some electronics adjustments can smooth out his Yamaha M1’s behavior. “We should improve a little bit the behavior of the bike under acceleration, with the throttle. It’s a little bit nervous, so we must try to make it a little bit more easy going off the corners.”
Although Lorenzo has a 28-point lead in the MotoGP championship heading into the final three races, he knows that being complacent at Sepang can be his undoing. “I prefer to stay ahead with more than 28 points than to be behind," he said during the Friday afternoon rain. "Dani is now in very good shape, his bike is working really well, and he has nothing to lose, no? He must try to win these last three races. We are in a different position, we have more to lose than him.”
Lorenzo’s teammate Ben Spies ended the day sixth on the MotoGP timesheets at Sepang after some electronics issues held up his morning session. “This morning was OK, we had some small electronics problems that held us back a little bit,” said Spies while the Friday afternoon rains pelted the track. “But the bike was working quite good, we think we solved it for this afternoon. Unlucky with the weather, we didn't get to go out; well, I did go out for half a lap, and it wasn’t safe to be out there. We hope to bounce back after Motegi. We had another bad luck weekend there; we had great pace before the race. In the race we ran into brake problems and there was nothing we could do about it. It was very…I was upset again for me and team, just like the whole year’s been. I think we could’ve definitely fought for the podium, and fought with the front two guys. But luck wasn’t on my side; we just come here, we’ve tested here, and we know the bike’s good. Hopefully we get some good weather; Sunday the race is at 4:00, and at 4:00 here you never know what you’re going to run into, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Ducati’s Nicky Hayden was eighth quickest in his first visit to Sepang this year without being severely hampered by injury, with his hand injury suffered in the Aragon MotoGP crash now healing nicely. “It’s hard to really compare for me to the tests, because I was so injured; one with the injury, and then I had the operation for the second one," admitted Hayden on Friday. "The feeling was OK, we had a couple of little improvements during the session. I tried the new swingarm, which definitely helped me a little bit. But still, we’ll wait and see how the weekend goes. On the positive (side), my hand does feel a lot better than Motegi, so can’t use that excuse this weekend, need to get on with the job. This afternoon the conditions were quite strange because it really…it wasn’t the track was halfway dry, it was literally half the track was wet, the other half the track was dry. The track being so big like this, and the way the storm came through…I don’t know if I’ve ever seen one part of the track be so different than the other. I went out to check the rain tire, but I didn’t really want to destroy a set of rain tires being that we don’t have so many, but I did check a little bit just to get a feeling in the wet in case it rains on Sunday.”
Valentino Rossi unfortunately was held back in the morning MotoGP practice by a wrong choice of bike settings, with the Friday afternoon rain at Sepang ruining any chance of improvement. “This morning I was more slow than I expect because we try something in the setting that doesn’t work very well,” said Rossi. “So for this reason is very important that we are waiting for this afternoon because we have some modify on the bike, but unfortunately we have some rain, half and half condition, mix, half wet, half dry, so more or less a useless session. In Motegi for improve the rear grip we try to do some modify the bike we try to see (if it will work in Sepang) but here is very different. For this reason I have problem to stay on the line, I always go wide, and for this reason I lose too much.”
MotoGP Sepang Friday practice results:
1. Dani Pedrosa (SPA) Honda 2:01.621
2. Casey Stoner (AUS) Honda 2:01.773
3. Jorge Lorenzo (SPA) Yamaha 2:01.934
4. Andrea Dovisioso (ITA) Yamaha 2:02.236
5. Cal Crutchlow (GBR) Yamaha 2:02.266
6. Ben Spies (USA) Yamaha 2:02.358
7. Stefan Bradl (GER) Honda 2:02.617
8. Nicky Hayden (USA) Ducati 2:02.754
9. Alvaro Bautista (SPA) Honda 2:02.872
10. Hector Barbera (SPA) Ducati 2:03.221
11. Valentino Rossi (ITA) Ducati 2:03.274
12. Karel Abraham (CZE) Ducati 2:04.624
13. Randy De Puniet (FRA) ART/Aprilia 2:05.029
14. Aleix Espargaro (SPA) ART/Aprilia 2:05.077
15. Colin Edwards (USA) Suter/BMW 2:05.387
16. Michele Pirro (ITA) FTR/Honda 2:06.058
17. James Ellison (GBR) ART/Aprilia 2:06.452
18. Roberto Rolfo (ITA) ART/Aprilia 2:06.470
19. Yonny Hernandez (COL) FTR/Kawasaki 2:07.257
20. Ivan Silva (SPA) FTR/Kawasaki 2:07.291
21. Danilo Petrucci (ITA) Ioda-Suter/BMW 2:07.818