Cal Crutchlow will start his second MotoGP race from a competitive ninth at Jerez in Sunday, after a highly promising second day in Spain.
The Englishman may be lining up one place behind where he qualified on his premier-class debut in Qatar, but the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider is far more confident in his race pace this weekend and will be seeking his first top ten finish on Sunday.
“I'm really happy considering I don't know this track at all and there are a lot of talented riders behind me on the grid again,” said the former World Supersport champion and World Superbike race winner, who finished eleventh in Qatar.
“This morning I was seventh and I've qualified ninth, so I'm obviously making big progress. My ideal time was sixth, so I can't complain about that given my lack of experience on this track. I actually felt more comfortable with the harder tyre than I did with the soft, so that bodes well for the race tomorrow.
“We definitely made a big improvement with the front-end of the bike and I felt much more comfortable today. But we sacrificed a bit of rear grip, so we've got to try and find a balance that gives me the grip I've got now with the front, but improves the rear feeling too.
“My target for the race will be to finish in the top ten. Looking at the lap times I'm similar to Hayden and Aoyama again like I was in Qatar. I was a little bit behind them at the end of the race in Qatar, so hopefully I can make that step and give them a closer battle here. My confidence is growing and I'm optimistic I can get a good result tomorrow.”
Team-mate Colin Edwards will start one place in front of Crutchlow. The Texan was one of numerous fallers in qualifying, but didn't think he could have done much better.
“I'm never happy with eighth position but I honestly couldn't have put in any extra effort than what I did,” he said. “It is hard to be disappointed when I know I rode as hard as I could do. It was obvious how hard I was pushing when I crashed late in the session. But to even get close to the second row now with this level of competition, you've got to take a few risks.
“I'd just done my fastest lap of the session when I got into the second corner and lost the front. I wanted to push a bit more to try and get onto the second row but obviously bit off more than I could chew and down I went.
“I felt good in the session because we modified the front forks by running a hard spring and it gave me the extra feedback I was looking for. On the hard rear tyre that we'll race on, I'm pretty happy because I was able to lap consistently in the low 40s.
“We didn't make a big step with the softer tyre so that shows we've got a decent race set-up and although it will be a tough race, I'm really looking forward to it.”