Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen crashed during the early part of the first practice session at Laguna Seca on Friday, stunting his progress.

Vermeulen, on the podium at Laguna Seca for the past two seasons, had just gone to the top of the leaderboard when he locked the front wheel of his GSV-R at turn two at the Californian circuit.

"I was really looking forward to coming back to Laguna as it is obviously a track I enjoy, but it wasn't the start I wanted!" he admitted. "On the fourth or fifth lap I was just starting to build up my pace and as I entered turn two I locked the front wheel and went down."

The #7 was quickly on his feet, but unable to get his bike back on track and due to the access restrictions at Laguna the marshals couldn't return it to the pits.

Vermeulen therefore mounted his spare bike to continue the session, but that machine was set-up in a very different way. He eventually finished in eighth position, 1.236sec from the top.

"I got back to the pits and went out on the other bike but it was set up very differently - geometry wise - and it didn't quite work as well as we'd hoped around here," he confirmed.

"The main thing we did find was that we are still struggling a lot with the front feeling of the bike as it feels quite a bit different to last year. Bridgestone has brought a different front tyre this time to the one I used in 2008 and we're trying to make that work better for us.

"Apart from that the bike feels quite good and it is accelerating quite well off the corners. I do love riding around here so hopefully tomorrow we can get the bike working better and get closer to the front."

Team-mate Loris Capirossi did try two different set-ups on his bikes, but never really felt comfortable with either and finished in twelfth position.

"We tried to do something big with the setting today and we started with two very different bikes," said the Italian veteran. "We never really found the best solution with either bike and went back to the first one and modified that a bit to try and find the best settings for this track.

"On the last run we did improve a bit but we still need to work harder and improve a lot more tomorrow. We still need a bit more grip and although overall things are ok we need to make some big steps in certain places tomorrow."

"For the first session, the laps-times are very good at the front and we've got a lot of work to close the gap," confessed team manager Paul Denning. "The good news is that neither rider is happy with the bike and they know we can go a lot better. We will be doing what we can to improve the GSV-R and I think we can take some decent steps tomorrow."

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