MotoGP rookie Ben Spies was surprised to finish his first ever hour at the Circuit de Catalunya in fifth place.
Using the harder front and rear Bridgestone tyre options to cope with the extreme track temperature that hit 53 degrees, the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider was just 0.129sec behind Andrea Dovizioso in fourth to once again finish top non-factory rider.
“The track is fun but the longer turns are pretty hard to learn. The last three turns are definitely a little bit different but I felt I was slowly getting to grips with it and I'm really surprised I ended so high up in fifth,” said Spies who has finished third and fourth at the last two races.
“I went out on one bike and just worked on learning the track and when I switched to the other bike I found the turning was a lot better. I fixed the twitchy feel I was having on the front and that was a positive. Then I put the hard front tyre on and it was a hundred times better for me and it ended up being a really good session.
“We changed the geometry in the front-end and got the bike turning even better. I didn't have to hold the front brake to help the bike turn. Now I can let off the brake, throw it into the corner and get it turned.
“It is obvious rear grip is vital here in the hot conditions and the key is going to be who can set the bike up for the end of the race when there's not much grip. I'm looking decent on speed right now but we've got to manage it and make sure I'm fast for the end of the race.”
Fellow American Colin Edwards was only ninth fastest, and 0.697sec slower than Spies, but felt satisfied with his efforts.
“I think I went about a tenth faster than my best time in last year's Friday session. It's the same rider, the same tyres, pretty much the same bike with a slightly different engine, so I can honestly say I'm trying my hardest and not getting any slower!” he stated.
“I feel good and I'm definitely making some strides with the bike. We put some more weight on the front and got it turning a lot better. I feel a lot more comfortable and the bike is not running wide now when I get into the corner. It has been a nightmare with the turning this year but finally we've made big progress in that area.
“I went out on the hard rear tyre and I just stayed on that for the whole session. It is really hot out there and there wasn't a lot of grip and we'll need to make some changes overnight to the rear suspension because tyre management in those conditions is going to be crucial.”