Jorge Lorenzo kept the pressure on his Movistar Yamaha team-mate Valentino Rossi as he remained rooted to the top of the times in FP2 at Motegi in Japan.
Lorenzo, who closed the gap to the nine-times world champion in the MotoGP standings with a victory in the previous round at Aragon in Spain, completed a clean sweep of practice on Friday as he improved his time to 1m 44.731s after holding sway for most of FP2.
Bradley Smith leapt from eighth to first with four minutes of the session remaining, briefly heading Lorenzo until the Spaniard – using the softer Bridgestone rear – raised the stakes further to post the fastest lap of the day overall.
A flurry of improved times in the closing stages saw British star Smith bumped down to fifth and half-a-second behind Lorenzo at the finish, with Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa – who was back to his best with a battling runner-up-finish in Spain after a duel with Rossi – ending FP2 in second place, 0.128s off the top on the factory RC213V.
Lorenzo, showing no ill-effects after tweaking his shoulder in a mini bike spill, and Pedrosa were the only riders to dip into the 1m 44s bracket, while championship leader Rossi – third quickest in FP1 – tumbled down the leaderboard on the second factory M1 and has eight tenths to find on his team-mate.
The 36-year-old appeared to be losing time on the second part of the lap and failed to make much of an impression on the softer rear tyre in his final time assault.
Andrea Iannone continued to impress on the Ducati GP15 with the Italian holding onto to third, even though he is some way off full fitness after suffering a recent shoulder dislocation for the second time this season.
Andrea Dovizioso eventually finished fourth after moving as high as second, ending the day only 0.016s behind team-mate Iannone and three tenths down on Lorenzo.
Smith was the leading satellite rider behind the Ducati pair, while Aleix Espargaro completed the first six on the Ecstar Suzuki, lapping in 1m 45.348s on the GSX-RR.
Reigning world champion Marc Marquez, competing for the first time since surgery on a fracture to his left hand suffered in a mountain bike accident after Aragon, was unable to make much impact on the top six as he opted for medium front and rear combination on the Repsol Honda in contrast to his main rivals, finishing in an uncustomary seventh.
Marquez, who suffered a big moment in the opening minutes at the uphill Turn 8 section when he lost the front only to save it on his right elbow, was 0.761s behind Lorenzo and just 0.062s ahead of Rossi in eighth.
Pol Espargaro on the second of the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machines and Open class contender Hector Barbera, who temporarily climbed as high as sixth on the Avintia Ducati with three minutes to go, rounded out the first ten.
British riders Cal Crutchlow on the LCR Honda and Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda's Scott Redding were 11th and 12th – 1.1s and 1.3s respectively behind pacesetter Lorenzo.
Suzuki's Maverick Vinales, Jack Miller (LCR Honda) and Pramac Ducati's Yonny Hernandez filled the top 15 places.
Ireland's Eugene Laverty was 19th fastest ahead of his World Superbike-bound Aspar Honda team-mate Nicky Hayden, who had been the leading Open rider in FP1.
Frenchman Loris Baz, a faller at Turn 11 on the opening laps, finished 24th on the Forward Yamaha while wildcard Katsuyuki Nagasuga was also caught out at the same corner on the special 60th anniversary-liveried factory Yamaha M1, ending FP2 in 23rd place.
1. Jorge Lorenzo
2. Dani Pedrosa
3. Andrea Iannone
4. Andrea Dovizioso
5. Bradley Smith
6. Aleix Espargaro
7. Marc Marquez
8. Valentino Rossi
9. Pol Espargaro
10. Hector Barbera
11. Cal Crutchlow
12. Scott Redding
13. Maverick Viñales
14. Jack Miller
15. Yonny Hernandez
16. Danilo Petrucci
17. Stefan Bradl
18. Takumi Takahashi
19. Eugene Laverty
20. Nicky Hayden
21. Mike Di Meglio
22. Alvaro Bautista
23. Katsuyuki Nakasuga
24. Loris Baz
25. Toni Elias
26. Alex De Angelis
27. Kousuke Akiyoshi