Casey Stoner only completed a handful of laps on a comfortable set-up before rain arrived, just after the midway point of Friday free practice at Le Mans, but it was enough for the Ducati Marlboro rider to clock a close second fastest time, 0.058sec behind Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso.
The 2007 world champion is usually fast from the off, but an unidentified problem with the rear of his bike left him 18th and last for the first 20 minutes of the hour, before leaping up the order.
"In the first part of the session it felt like we maybe had a problem with the rear tyre because the bike was pretty difficult to ride but we haven't analysed the data yet so we don't know what really happened,” Stoner confirmed.
“We were in and out of the garage a few times before deciding on a complete change, swapping onto my other bike with a completely new tyre. I immediately had a better feeling but we still weren't getting enough temperature into the tyre, which we think was because the rear setting was too stiff and we weren't getting enough weight transfer to load the rear and make the tyre work.
“We changed the set-up but we only had time to do half a lap and then the rain came, which was effectively 'game over'. It wasn't much of a session for us because we only completed three proper laps so it would be useful if we could have a dry weekend to have more time to work on the setting.
“Unfortunately with the way the weather forecast is, I don't think we're going to get that!" added the #27, who was officially credited with 10 laps, the least of any rider.
Team-mate Nicky Hayden, working for the first time with new crew chief Juan Martinez, was the only rider starting the session with a harder rear tyre and had just switched to a softer compound when the heavens opened.
The American ended the session just 15th fastest and is desperate for the opportunity of a full day's work tomorrow.
“We thought we were going to have an hour today but it seems like the weather decided we should stick to 45 minutes!” he smiled. “It was a shame about the rain because we obviously have a lot of work to do and we're in a new situation, where me and Juan need to learn about each other, but we only got two runs in the dry.
“I constantly got a little faster, a little faster, and then I was really just getting going on my second run when it started to rain. For a while it looked like it couldn't decide whether it wanted to rain or whether the sun was coming back out but unfortunately the conditions were never back to what we needed.
“I was planning to go out on the softer tyre and see how that felt but we didn't get that chance. It's early days to comment on the relationship with Juan but he clearly knows his stuff and we'll see how we go.”