At the start of a weekend in which he is expected to lose the 2009 MotoGP World Championship, Jorge Lorenzo at least kept the pressure on team-mate Valentino Rossi by leading Friday free practice at Sepang in Malaysia.

After disastrously crashing out at the first turn of last Sunday's Australian Grand Prix, Lorenzo needs to take at least 14 points off Rossi just to take the title fight to the final round at Valencia next month.

The young Spaniard, nearing the end of only his second MotoGP season, claims to no longer be thinking of the crown - but is determined to make up for his Phillip Island error this weekend.

The 22-year-old - riding with some pain in his little finger - hit the top in the final five minutes of Friday free practice and went on to finish just 0.064sec ahead of Casey Stoner (Ducati) but a substantial 0.684sec clear of fourth-placed Rossi.

"I was riding quite aggressively today and I felt good on the bike right from the start, so I am very happy about this after what happened last weekend," said Lorenzo. "It's very hot and it's really hard work to ride out there, but I feel okay.

"Unfortunately I have some pain in my finger where I hurt it on Sunday, it's not too bad but the cut is right on the knuckle, so it's a bit painful when I have to bend it to brake.

"Anyway, like I said on Sunday it could be a lot worse! I love riding at this track despite the heat and our bike is working well so I am hopeful for a good weekend," he concluded.

"Today was generally good for us and we felt confident, like we have in all the sessions this season apart from at Phillip Island," stated team manager Daniele Romagnoli. "It was important today to check Jorge's physical condition and his finger after last Sunday, but luckily it seems to be not so bad. We have tested all the tyres and we've collected some data which we hope will help us to improve our setting further tomorrow, when we will try to build on this good start."

Even if Lorenzo wins his fifth race of the season on Sunday, Rossi only needs fourth to take his seventh MotoGP title.

Lorenzo crashed out of last year's Sepang race, which was won by Rossi.

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