Valentino Rossi finished Friday free practice at Motegi in third place, the position he needs to be in to wrap up the 2008 MotoGP World Championship even if Casey Stoner wins Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix.
Stoner was fastest of all on Friday, while Rossi dropped from second position in the wet morning session to third in the dryer afternoon hour, having put his Fiat Yamaha 0.389secs behind the Ducati star and 0.316secs from Honda's Dani Pedrosa.
"This morning it was quite wet and we were very fast from the start," said Rossi. "We found a good setting and the Bridgestone wet tyre worked very well for me. This afternoon in the dry however we had a few more problems and Stoner and Pedrosa were both faster than me.
"At the moment we're missing a bit of front grip. This track is always quite hard and it doesn't suit our M1 perfectly; at the moment we have some issues in the slow corners and we're suffering a bit.
"Anyway, we were still third so it's not a big problem and I am sure we will be able to improve tomorrow. I hope the weather is better for the rest of the weekend!" the Italian declared.
"Today we've had a chance to test in both the wet and dry and this morning, in the wet, was very good and we were quite fast. This afternoon was not as good and it's clear that we still have some work to do, but anyway we are still third, which isn't so bad," confirmed team manager Davide Brivio. "The weather made things quite hard today but tomorrow, it seems, it will be dry all day and therefore we should be able to make the most of the time we have to maximise our setting for this track."
Rossi's team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, who has never won at this track, was quick this morning in the wet but suffered some problems on the drier track this afternoon, finishing in 15th.
"Today has been strange because usually I'm not so fast in the wet but fast in the dry; today was the opposite!" said the Spanish rookie. "I don't really know what happened this afternoon but I felt like I didn't have enough grip in the rear on the entrance to the corner and so I didn't have enough confidence to go fast. It felt a bit like in Donington and Assen.
"We're working hard now in the team and together with Michelin and we gathered a lot of data so I hope that tomorrow we will be able to find a way to improve it. I know that I also need to work on my riding style a bit for this track. Anyway, it seems that tomorrow it will be hotter so I think this will help us as well."