Colin Edwards returned to the kind of form that took him to fifth in last year's MotoGP World Championship, as the Texan claimed third place in Friday practice for the Valencia season finale.
The 36-year-old was only eleventh quickest this morning, but a series of modifications to improve turning performance helped him challenge for the top three throughout the second 45-minute session.
“I'm really happy to have made such a good start," said the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider, who has taken just one top-six finish in 2010.
"I was only 11th this morning but knew my guys had a handle on how to improve the bike and this afternoon it just felt so easy. All the problems I've had all year with the bike not turning and running wide disappeared. I could get into the corner hard on the brakes, carry lots of lean angle, open the throttle and the bike would just turn like it should do.
"It's all too little too late but I didn't feel like I was out there taking a lot of risks and I was nearly six-tenths faster this afternoon. Every lap I did was between 33.4 and 33.6 and that's consistently over half-a-second faster than what I was able to do here last year.
"I kept the same hard tyre for the whole session and just switched it between the bikes and my best tim e was on the 20th lap, so I'm really happy with the tyre performance too and think I could be in for a really strong weekend to finish the season.”
Team-mate Ben Spies, still limping heavily after dislocating his ankle last Sunday at Estoril, crashed this morning on his way to a sixth in the afternoon.
“I'm happy with the way today ended because I'm sixth but really close to Colin in third," said the 2011 factory Yamaha rider. "I felt good this morning before I crashed. I was on the soft front tyre and it is the one I don't like so much. I was happy to make it through the whole session on it but I got a bit too greedy and lost the front going into the second corner.
"I knew if I'd have swallowed some pride and slowed down or come in for the hard tyre it wouldn't have happened. At least I didn't aggravate the ankle, which is getting better as each day passes. Earlier this week it was really painful and I'm having a couple of issues back-shifting gears. But it is not going to be a problem for the race.
"I'm having lots of physio and when I'm not on the bike I'm using an ice pack a lot. But after the crash in Estoril and what happened this morning, I needed to have a good session this afternoon just to build up some confidence and that's what I managed.
"I'm really happy too because my fastest lap was on the 25th lap on the hard rear tyre option, so we've obviously got a good race setting already. Every change we made to the bike made it a bit better, so with a few more tweaks overnight we should be looking even stronger.”
Spies is sixth in the championship, but level on points with Nicky Hayden.