Ben Spies stands an excellent chance of beating his best dry MotoGP performance - an eighth place for Rizla Suzuki in last year's US Grand Prix - after qualifying an impressive ninth on his Yamaha MotoGP debut at Valencia.
After just three hours on an M1, the newly crowned rookie World Superbike champion lapped 1.283sec behind pole sitter Casey Stoner (Ducati), 0.617sec behind nine time world champion Valentino Rossi and beat regular Tech 3 Yamaha rider James Toseland, whom Spies will replace in 2010, by five places and 0.568sec.
“It was another good day today, I'm still not where I feel comfortable and I'm definitely not at home yet but I think for such a short time on the bike I'm pretty happy to be in the top ten and not so far off some of the other guys on the Yamahas,” said Spies, who had been 15th and 12th in free practice.
“In the end I need to try and get a good start, which I definitely haven't mastered yet, I've only had the chance to practice a couple so I think that could be where the downfall of the race will be for me.
“I think it's an ok qualifying result for us, we just need to keep doing more laps on the bike. I can feel what the bike wants to do but I'm just not ready to take it there yet. Every time we get on it we go faster and that works for me. I'm still not close to what the tyres can do either, I just need laps, laps and more laps!”
"Ben is continuing to learn the bike and the tyres, unfortunately the wind here [dust storm pictured] in Valencia today is making it much harder for him," added team manager Massimo Meregalli. "Having said that, to start on the third row having spent just three hours riding this bike is pretty good. I think he achieved a great result and we're looking forward to tomorrow.”
Spies claimed a best overall race finish of sixth, in the wet 2008 Indianapolis Grand Prix, during his three MotoGP rides for Suzuki.