Lorenzo, Stoner set pace at Sepang.

  Just five days after a disastrous first turn accident in Australia looked to all but end his title hopes, Jorge Lorenzo was back on top of the MotoGP timesheets during Friday free practice for the Malaysian Grand Prix at Sepang.

    Lorenzo hit the top of the timesheets during the final five minutes of the hour to eventually finish just 0.064sec ahead of Phillip Island winner Casey Stoner (Ducati).

    Lorenzo's Fiat Yamaha team-mate and title leader Valentino Rossi - who can wrap up his seventh MotoGP crown with fourth place, even if Lorenzo wins on Sunday - began the session with confidence, but was toppled by Stoner just after the midway point and eventually faded back to fourth behind Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa (+0.578sec Lorenzo).

    The reigning world champion concluded the hour a sizable 0.684sec behind Lorenzo - who needs to take at least 14 points from Rossi's 38 point lead to take the title to the final round at Valencia.

    Andrea Dovizioso, who took the only podium of his rookie season at Sepang last year, broke into the top four by displacing team-mate Pedrosa with 19 minutes to go, but dropped back to fifth at the flag, as the final rider within one-second of Lorenzo.

    After Suzuki's Phillip Island nightmare, Loris Capirossi put his GSV-R a competitive sixth at a circuit where he set the third fastest lap time - a fraction behind Stoner and Rossi - during pre-season testing.

    Toni Elias used his late braking skills at the end of Sepang's long straights to be the top satellite rider in seventh position for Gresini Honda, ahead of Stoner's factory Ducati team-mate Nicky Hayden and an unusually low-placed Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha).

    Rossi drops back, but 'quite happy' 

    If Friday's free practice results are repeated in Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix then Valentino Rossi would achieve his objective of wrapping up his seventh MotoGP crown before the Valencia season finale - just.

    Rossi starts the penultimate round 38 points clear of Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo - meaning that if Lorenzo wins, Rossi needs fourth to claim the title on Sunday.

    And that was how the factory M1 riders finished Friday practice - Lorenzo leading nearest rival Casey Stoner by 0.064sec, with Rossi also behind Honda's Dani Pedrosa and 0.684sec from the top.

    The Italian had been fastest for the first half of the session, before being caught and passed by his three main rivals.

    "I am quite happy about today, even if the time and the position isn't perfect,” said the 30-year-old. “We worked mainly with old tyres to understand the nature of the bike when it's sliding, which is important here, but actually my pace was very consistent and I think we can make another step tomorrow. 

    “It seems that Bridgestone have brought good tyres here, they are working very well despite the very hot temperatures and the fact that the track is a little bit dirty today. We still need to find a little bit more grip so we will look to improve the setting of the bike for this in the morning - it's going to be very important to be on the front row for Sunday. 

    “I think the race will be very hard and we will have to take care to prepare properly and drink a lot of water because it is very, very hot,” he warned.

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