The Motegi runner-up - starting his last two grands prix for Kawasaki before joining Honda LCR in 2008 - was fifth fastest during the slick opening session on the resurfaced Sepang racetrack, before edging out new world champion Casey Stoner by just 0.011secs with a blistering afternoon lap.

"During the first part of the practice session the track conditions weren't so easy, which is why I stayed in the pits, but I went out on track after about 20 minutes," recalled Randy, looking to further banish a reputation for being fast but somewhat mistake prone. "The surface was becoming dry [after a rain shower] and I feel I did a good job. I tried a hard compound race tyre, which gave me a really good feeling, so I'm pleased with that, and I did some really good, consistent lap times so it's not been such a bad day! I think we can improve the bike a little bit for tomorrow but I think, for the first day, we've not done badly."

"The weather is due to be bad tomorrow so we planned for [Randy] to do just two, long runs on two different-spec race tyres, so we could get a thorough evaluation of them. Obviously we will slightly adjust the set up: the mapping, engine braking and suspension, but it looks like both Randy and the bike are at a good level after only one day," added crew chief Christophe Bourguignon.

Only four riders were able to get within a second of de Puniet's time and his team-mate, Anthony West, was one of them. West finished Friday in fifth place, with a best run of 2mins 3.825secs.

"It was my first time here on this bike and I'm really pleased with the way it went today," said the Australian. "The track's okay but there are some slippery areas which never seem to completely dry out and, while grip's not perfect, it should get better over the weekend when the surface gets some more rubber laid down on it. However, my tyres have been feeling pretty good. At Phillip Island, I had a lot of problems with the rear but today I had loads more grip, so things have already improved and hopefully we can keep getting better tomorrow."