At first glance, Factory Yamaha riders Ben Spies and Jorge Lorenzo slipped backwards relative to testing at Qatar earlier this week, during Thursday night's opening practice session for the grand prix weekend.
Having been third (Spies) and seventh (Lorenzo) at the end of testing, the pair were sixth (Spies) and seventh (Lorenzo) during opening practice - further from Casey Stoner than they had been at the test, and now behind two Ducatis as well as the leading Hondas.
"We spent the whole time on tyres we hope are the worst for the track, a front I don't like and a harder rear and we matched our time from the test,” said Spies, who was 0.741sec from Stoner, but only 0.131sec from second fastest Dani Pedrosa (Honda). “I'm happy that we've made the bike a bit better, if we go to what we think is better with the tyres we should have a few tenths."
Reigning world champion Lorenzo also had goo reason for optimism, having found a much better set-up than at the test - and having set more lap times below 1min 57sec on Thursday than all but Stoner and Marco Simoncelli (Honda, fourth).
"Today we used a set up from last year here, I feel much more used to it so I am a lot more happy,” said the Spaniard, who was a tenth slower than Spies. “I think if we improve the setting some more tomorrow we can really step forward. With the new chassis I can make faster corner speed here so the 2011 chassis is working well. I think we will all be closer to the front on Sunday night."
"A very good practice for us, even when the position is not so good,” confirmed team manager Wilco Zeelenberg. “The last test we did a long run and Jorge was not so happy with the set up and was a bit disappointed. Finally the improvement and changes we made today have resulted in a good test and a better feeling for him. This means he can now be consistent, that is his strong point. From now on we will be moving forwards."
Final MotoGP free practice takes place on Friday night at Qatar.