Recently-crowned 2008 MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi got off to a strong start at the penultimate round of the season, at Sepang on Friday.

The Italian finished Friday practice a close second behind M1 colleague Colin Edwards and was the only rider to dip under the 2min 2sec mark and topped the timesheets in the morning, when he set his fastest lap of the day.

"This was a good day for us because we were fastest this morning and then second this afternoon behind Colin," said the Fiat Yamaha rider. "I like this track a lot; it's difficult, technical and wide and it's possible to have a lot of fun riding a MotoGP bike here.

"It's a different feeling compared to the tests here pre-season, because the bike has changed a lot since then and we've also learnt a lot more about the tyres; it's good to see how much we have improved everything since then.

"Our pace today is already good so I think we have a good potential this weekend, but it's definitely possible to improve some more and make our setting better. We need to work on one or two small things. I have a strong motivation for a good result here!" he added.

"We've been fast all day and we've collected a lot of information to add to the data we have from testing here pre-season," confirmed team manager Davide Brivio. "It seems our bike is already at a good level for this track so tomorrow we will look to refine our setting and finalise our tyre choice to make sure we're in the best shape."

Rossi's Michelin-shod team-mate Jorge Lorenzo finished second in the morning but also failed to improve in the afternoon, dropping him to fifth in the combined standings

"I felt good here today!" said the race-winning rookie. "Unfortunately this afternoon we changed a lot of things and we didn't have quite enough grip with the final tyre, so we weren't able to improve on the time from this morning, but anyway we know what the problem is so we're not so worried.

"I think I can be competitive here and that I can fight for the front row tomorrow," he declared. "It's very hot but it's still great fun to ride the M1 here, you can slide the rear, which is a fantastic feeling on these bikes, and I really enjoyed myself today. I hope that this can continue for the rest of the weekend."

"Unfortunately we didn't select the best tyre for the right moment but we are confident that we can improve tomorrow and be competitive this weekend," said team manger Daniele Romagnoli.



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