Factory Yamaha rider Ben Spies struggled with injuries sustained in Australia last weekend during Friday practice for the Malaysian MotoGP at Sepang.
The Texan, who missed last Sunday's race, completed the pair of sessions in ninth place, just over two seconds from pace setter Dani Pedrosa (Honda).
“It's been a really rough day, coming back after the crash in Australia I'm pretty beat up and not able to ride the bike like I want to which is really showing," said Spies. "We're doing the best we can but I feel like I'm struggling. We'll try to get as many points as we can this weekend and keep a reign on fifth place in the Championship.”
“Ben is really suffering with his rib injury so it's difficult to expect more from him, he is trying as hard as he can," added team director Massimo Meregalli. "I think that tomorrow he can maybe deliver some better laps. During qualifying you are more focused and can fight the pain for a couple of hot laps. The bike set up is not so bad, at this moment he can't push hard enough to find any issues or use the full performance of the bike."
On the other side of the garage Jorge Lorenzo's replacement, Katsuyuki Nakasuga, had a nightmare start to his first MotoGP event.
The Yamaha test rider, who raced as a wild-card in his home 250GP from 2002-2004, fell once in both sessions to end the day 18th and last. His best lap, set in the morning, was 4.1490sec from Pedrosa and 0.8sec from the injured Hector Barbera (Ducati).
“Today was my first day riding in the MotoGP Championship; I wanted to learn as much as I could during the sessions," he said. "Unfortunately I crashed this morning but thought that afterwards I would be able to relax a little once it was out of the way.
"Unfortunately again I crashed this afternoon and I'm not sure why. I'm feeling disappointed about it but will come back tomorrow and try to make sure we improve and have a day without crashing!”
Team manager Wilco Zeelenberg said Nakasuga was feeling the pressure.
“A very difficult first day. It wasn't the plan to crash in both practices but you can imagine how difficult it is to take on this challenge. Nakasuga-san put a lot of pressure on himself and maybe tried a little too hard too early. We need to help him find a rhythm and of course he is lacking a bit of speed compared to his competitors. We need to step up a bit tomorrow, not an easy task with the high level of competition on the track.”