The Grand Prix of Malaysia began today at the Sepang circuit with the first free practice sessions of the weekend. Yamaha Factory Racing rider Ben Spies struggled to make improvements over the day, as injuries sustained from his crash in Australia last weekend continued to hamper his ability to push his YZR-M1. He completed the sessions in ninth place, just over two seconds from provisional pole.

Jorge Lorenzo’s replacement rider, Katsuyuki Nakasuga experienced the first Grand Prix sessions of his career, acquainting himself with Lorenzo’s bike and crew. A small crash in the morning warm up on the slippery Sepang circuit resulted in no injuries. An unfortunate second crash followed in the afternoon session, Nakasuga-san dropping to 18th place as he worked on understanding Lorenzo’s YZR-M1.

The Ducati Team started its work today preparing the Desmosedici’s setup for the Sepang circuit, which due to recent heavy rains had far from optimal condition in terms of grip.

Both Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi struggled, finishing the first day of practice in eleventh and twelfth positions, respectively. Both riders will work tomorrow to improve the bike’s behavior in the fast corners, where today they weren’t able to be as competitive as they would like.

Five days after securing the MotoGP title in Australia, the new Motorcycling World Champion resumed the action in Malaysia. The third and last round of the Asian tour started with the clear dominance of the Repsol Honda Team riders, led by Dani Pedrosa that took the first place in both free practice sessions. After him, Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso completed a positive day for the Repsol Honda Team, signing the second and third place, respectively.

The intense heat and humidity that always accompany the Malaysian Grand Prix did not prevent the Repsol Honda Team riders from showing their most dominant side in a practice day where they set the pace. Pedrosa was the fastest in the morning, as he was the only one to ride under 2 minutes and 2 seconds, setting a time 6 tenths faster than Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso, who were second and third. The rest of the riders rode above 2 minutes and 3 seconds.

In the second free session, the Repsol riders showed again that they are the fastest on the Sepang Circuit and, although Stoner led during some minutes of the session, his team mate at the Repsol Honda Team, Dani Pedrosa, set the pace again. While testing the tyres for Sunday’s race, the Spaniard focused on trying the softest tyre brought by Bridgestone, while the 2011 World Championship focused on the hard tyre.

Taking advantage of the highest grip level of that compound, Pedrosa was the first to lap in 2 minutes and 2 seconds and later the only one to lap in 2’01, stopping the clock in a definitive 2 minutes, 1 second and 250 thousandths, waiting to test the durability of this tyre for the race. In the end, he was no less than eight tenths faster than Stoner and nearly a second and a half faster than Andrea Dovizioso, who was third again after finishing 74 thousandths away from his morning time.

Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team rider Colin Edwards enjoyed a positive start to his preparations for this weekend’s Malaysian MotoGP race at a sweltering hot Sepang circuit today. The extensive work on the set-up of his YZR-M1 machine during two winter test sessions at the Sepang circuit in February paid instant dividends for Edwards today, the experienced American immediately able to find a fast and consistent rhythm.

He lapped in fourth place for the majority of this afternoon’s second practice session, which took place in typically hot and humid conditions at the 5.548km track. Air temperatures soared to well over 30 degrees and a best lap of 2.02.991s eventually secured the 37-year-old sixth position on the combined timesheets. Working on improving rear grip in the 32-laps he completed in physically demanding conditions, Edwards was almost 0.8s faster this afternoon. And he is confident with minor modifications to the set-up of his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 machine ahead of tomorrow’s final practice and qualifying session that he will be challenging for a place on the second row of the grid.

Cal Crutchlow’s third visit of the year to the fast and technical Sepang circuit didn’t run as smoothly as he had hoped. He worked closely with his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew to gain more rear side grip and better turning on corner entry, but he was unable to find a set-up that gave him the confidence to lap in the high 2.02 bracket like Edwards.

The 25-year-old was 0.7s faster in the second session but a best lap of 2.03.901 left him down in 15th on the timesheets. That was just over a second away from fourth and Crutchlow is determined to improve his pace tomorrow to fight a top 10 result in qualifying ahead of Sunday’s 20-lap race.

Top 5 results:

1. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) 2:01.250
2. Casey Stoner (Repsol Honda Team) 2:02.070
3. Andrea Dovizioso (Repsol Honda Team) 2:02.590
4. Marco Simoncelli (Honda) 2:02.823
5. Hiroshi Aoyama (Honda) 2:02.951