Wednesday's announcement that 250cc world champion Marco Simoncelli will be joining Honda Gresini next season has increased the pressure for results from present riders Toni Elias and Alex de Angelis.
And that pressure was magnified on Thursday when fellow satellite Honda rider Randy de Puniet set the fastest practice lap time at Assen, while de Angelis and Elias - who has a factory spec bike - managed only eleventh and 15th respectively.
“To have a satellite Honda in first place today certainly shows the potential of the bike,” said team manager Fausto Gresini.
de Angelis at least drew comfort from being only 0.653sec from de Puniet - “It's the first time we've managed to be so close all season and it shows we're moving in the right direction” - but Elias was 1.8sec adrift and clearly unhappy.
“This has been a bad day for us,” said the Spaniard. “I don't have any feeling on the front on the way into the corners and not enough rear traction on the way out. It has been the same story at every track we've been to."
“With Toni we seem to be going round in circles with the same problems so hopefully we can do a good job and find a breakthrough tomorrow,” said Gresini.