After a subdued seventh on his Ducati race debut in Qatar, Valentino Rossi jumped back into MotoGP podium contention by posting the third fastest lap time during Friday's pair of free practice sessions for the Spanish MotoGP at Jerez.
Like the top seven riders, Rossi set his best time of the day in morning session, having been fifth fastest with a slower lap time in the hot and blustery afternoon practice.
Rossi was 0.526sec from fastest man Casey Stoner in FP1 and 0.855sec behind Stoner's Repsol Honda team-mate Dani Pedrosa in FP2.
“I'm happy because this morning I did the third-fastest time, and in the afternoon, when the higher temperature hurt us a little, I was fifth,” said Rossi. “Anyway, most of the riders went a bit slower in the second session.
“Apart from the two Hondas at the front, we're closer to everyone else, which was our goal. It was a good day.
“There's still work to do; we're trying to find the right balance, and that's why we're trying two settings that are a little different from each other as we work on weight distribution.
“We have to improve the front feeling a little; the bike that I prefer still doesn't turn like we want it to, which means we'll have to find a compromise between the two setups.
“As for my shoulder, I don't have much strength, but in terms of endurance, it's a little better.”
Team-mate Nicky Hayden was one of seven riders to set his best time in FP2 and he finished the day ninth overall, 1.507sec from Stoner's morning time.
“We're basically riding the same bike as in Qatar, obviously with a couple of small tweaks for this track; you need a stiffer front spring and a few other little differences,” revealed the American.
“We feel closer than we were in Qatar. We made a little step forward this afternoon and it's good because only a few riders improved in the afternoon session, though the wind was a lot worse.
“It's the same for everybody, but the wind was really brutal today, especially around here where you're leaned over in a lot of long corners. We're still almost a second off of the front riders, but at least we're inside a second, which wasn't the case at Round 1.
“We're not over here jumping up and down with joy, but we're positive, and we'll keep improving. There's a few places I'm lacking, but we're trying to just make small gains and not make too many big changes.”