Colin Edwards justified his new Monster Yamaha Tech 3 contract by once again being 'best of the rest' behind Jorge Lorenzo, Dani Pedrosa, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner during Friday free practice at Estoril.
The Texan was thus the top satellite rider, a position he holds by 35 points over Randy de Puniet and Alex de Angelis in the world championship standings with four rounds remaining.
“I felt pretty good today once I'd blown off a few cobwebs,” confirmed Colin, who was almost one second off Lorenzo's fastest time but just 0.137s away from Stoner in fourth.
“It was great to have a long break but it was also good to be back on the bike to try and finish the year off strong. My lap times are good enough for the first day and we made some good progress with the set-up of the bike.
“We put a bit more weight on the front and that helped my lap times although I still had a little bit of front-end movement that I need to sort out overnight. Right now the bike feels a bit rigid and while it's not a big issue, if we can cure it I'm sure I can go faster.
“The track condition feels pretty good because we're not used to this weather at this time of the year in Estoril. We were all expecting wind and rain and we ended up dripping with sweat,” he admitted.
Determined to finish his MotoGP career in style, team-mate James Toseland - who will return to World Superbike next season and be replaced by Ben Spies - made a competitive start to the weekend with eighth position.
“It was a really good session even though it took a while to get back into the swing of things having spent almost a month off the bike since Misano,” said the Englishman. “The team have worked in a really good direction for the entire session and it was a positive start.
“There is quite a big difference in the level of grip between the soft and the hard compound options from Bridgestone. We'll need the harder tyre for the race but with the softer option being so crucial to get a good qualifying position, we need to preserve the softer one as much as we can for tomorrow afternoon.
“We had a little issue with the stability of the bike under hard braking. This circuit has a lot of high speed braking points but we seemed to have found a much better balance for that. Now it's a question of making the package we finished the session on more consistent so we can get the maximum grip from the hard tyre.”