Valentino Rossi admitted he was content with setting the fourth fastest time on the opening day of the Malaysian MotoGP in Sepang.
The 30-year-old can wrap up his ninth world championship success in Sunday’s 21-lap race, and he was fast out of the blocks today in the searing Sepang heat that saw temperatures hit over 30 degrees.
Rossi led for long periods of the session before he slipped back to fourth spot with a best time of 2.02.864.
That left the Italian rider just 0.106s behind Dani Pedrosa in third but a massive 0.684s away from Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who topped the timesheets with a best of 2.02.180.
Fourth place in Sunday’s race would be good enough for Rossi to clinch his seventh MotoGP title and he said: “The first practice was not so bad, even if the position and the difference from the top is quite high.
"But we worked just with old tyres because we want to try to understand the behaviour of the bike when the tyre starts to slide a lot.
"So for this reason I’m fourth and I am more than half-a-second to the top, but I’m quite confident for tomorrow because already the setting is good, so we have started in a good way.”
Rossi said he would focus on improving rear grip and acceleration tomorrow and he added: “We need to find some more rear grip, because I slide a bit too much on the entry to the corner and also under acceleration.
"And we need to improve acceleration, so for tomorrow we will work on the mapping and also on the setting of the bike.”
Today’s lap times were impressively fast for the opening day at Sepang. Grip levels are normally low on the first day, but with ground temperatures reaching 46 degrees, Lorenzo was only 0.080s away from Phillip Island winner Casey Stoner’s 2007 lap record.
Rossi told MCN: “The pace is quite fast, already under 2.03. I am the rider that made the most laps under 2.03 and that is a good pace.
"We have to improve, but it looks like already the condition of the track is not so bad and we hope that the grip will be better for tomorrow.”