After a 'confusing' opening day, when he had been just tenth fastest at one of his and Yamaha's best tracks, Colin Edwards jumped back into podium contention for the home Tech 3 team by qualifying a close sixth for Sunday's French Grand Prix.
The Texan, fastest of all in Saturday morning practice, held a front row position until the final five minutes of the hour. His best lap was ultimately just 0.356sec from Dani Pedrosa's pole position time and set despite a front tyre that was past its best.
“I'm happy on one side because my race pace is really consistent and I'm as quick as the guys in front of me, so I expect to be challenging at the front in the race tomorrow,” said Edwards. “But part of me is a little bit disappointed that I wasn't higher up the grid having been close to the top pretty much throughout.
“I had a couple of small issues and I feel there was more time out there. Basically I can only use the hard front tyre. I can't get the soft one to work, but we have to keep two of the four hard compound tyres for the race. So by the end of the session the front I like is past its best with a lot of laps on it.
“When you put in the softer rear tyre to make a lap time at the end of the session, the best grip on the hard front has gone and it starts moving because you're pushing it too hard. Having said that, to be within three tenths of the fast guys I'm not complaining too much. And when we start the race tomorrow with the grip of the front and rear at the same level, we're not going to have a problem.
“I got a podium last year for Tech 3 in its home race, so I'm definitely looking for a repeat of that,” he declared.
Team-mate James Toseland will start from twelfth on the grid, but insisted set-up progress had finally been made.
“I felt much happier today and the team gave me a great bike,” he said. “I'm sorry to my guys really for not being a bit further up the grid, but we're so close to being on the edge of the top six and I feel I'm making the progress I've been looking for.
“I'm not far off the group in front at all but starting further down makes it tough to pick them off when we're all doing similar lap times. I really feel though that I'm getting close and today I started to enjoy riding and not thinking about always struggling.
“That was a good feeling and I know how important this race is for the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 Team and I'll be giving it 100 per cent as always.”
Tech 3 is celebrating 20 years of grand prix racing this weekend.