Shinya Nakano staked his claim for a place on the 2009 MotoGP grid, should a third Kawasaki materialise, by being fastest for much of Friday afternoon in Malaysia - and finishing the day as the leading Honda rider.
The Honda Gresini rider put his factory-spec RCV eighth fastest in the opening session, but was soon in command of the second session - where he remained for much of the hour, helped by mid-session drizzle.
Nakano was eventually demoted by Edwards, Rossi and Stoner in the very final minute, but he remained just 0.383sec from the top and the top Honda rider, two places ahead of factory pilot Dani Pedrosa.
"I'm satisfied with this day of free practice," said Nakano. "The morning session didn't go badly and I managed to set some consistent lap times. The afternoon went even better despite the mixed conditions, with a couple of raindrops falling and a potential downpour looming.
"It meant we didn't get to complete as many laps as we would have liked but despite the conditions my lap times were still fast and continually improving. I hope we can continue like this tomorrow because it will give us a good shot at qualifying," he added.
Rookie team-mate Alex de Angelis was left just 17th fastest after failing to improve in the afternoon.
"In the final stages of the second practice we put on a different rear tyre, on the advice of Bridgestone, which improved my feeling with the bike quite a lot. Unfortunately I was only able to get four laps on it before the time ran out and I'm sure we could have made major improvements on the lap times from the morning session and the first half of this afternoon," said the San Marinese.