Ben Spies put his first crash on the YZR-M1, during the final day of pre-season testing at Losail three weeks ago, behind him with a solid sixth place in opening practice for the Qatar Grand Prix.

The reigning World Superbike champion and 2010 MotoGP rookie, who has four previous grand prix starts under his belt, was running as high as third at the halfway stage of the hour.

The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider then dropped a few places, despite cutting the gap to Casey Stoner from 1.7sec to 1.3sec, but was particularly pleased with his pace on old tyres.

"I didn't want anything crazy to go on with it being the first race. I wanted to be in the top ten for the first session of the year because the last time I rode the bike I fell, so I just wanted to clear my head and get off to a good start," he explained.

"To be in the top ten in the first session and right in sixth, I'm happy with that. We never really threw a lap time in and the session was pretty smooth. We went out on the hard tyres and it was good. We did our quickest lap on the 21st lap, which is close to a full race.

"Every time we went out the times were getting faster. Besides the top three guys, I think we've got pretty good speed, which is really important. We need to get some time on the softer tyre so when qualifying comes we can use it to its full potential. I still think we've got a second at least with fresh hard tyres on the bike, so I'm pretty happy about that."

Spies was the top rookie and satellite rider, with team-mate Colin Edwards - the leading non-factory rider in 2009 - left down in twelfth place.

"I left the test last month in a bit of a grey area and wondering about a couple of things because the bike has a different geometry this year and it's changed the feel a bit. I've been trying to adapt to it but I need to make some changes and bring the set-up closer to what I had last year," he revealed.

"Right now I'm not feeling all that comfortable. I feel like I'm chasing the bike on the front and it doesn't turn until I open the throttle. With this bike you can't ride it without momentum. That's one of its strong points and right now I can't take advantage of that.

"We'll take some weight off the front for tomorrow night and in my opinion that will help. I think 12th is a bit of a false position because I'm sure with some changes I've got another second in me. Right now there's too many corners where I can't carry the momentum I want. But I'm confident we can improve a lot."

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