MotoGP man of the moment Dani Pedrosa, winner of four of the past five races, made his latest appearance at the top of the timesheets during Friday practice at Sepang in Malaysia.
The Repsol Honda star, who is 28 points behind Yamaha's Jorge Lorenzo with three rounds to go, concluded the only dry session of the day with a slim 0.152s advantage over team-mate Casey Stoner.
Lorenzo was 0.313s from Pedrosa in third.
None of the morning top six recorded a lap time in the slower afternoon session, due to mixed surface conditions following a rain storm.
“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 Spaniard's morning time - set on his tenth of 16 laps - was under the official race lap record, but two-seconds outside the best seen in pre-season testing.
“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,” said Pedrosa.
“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.”
Sunday's race will start at a late 4pm, increasing the chances of rain playing a part in the grand prix.
Such weather could either make or break Pedrosa's title hopes.