After four disappointing races leading into the summer break, MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow came out fighting at Brno on Friday, when he was the top satellite-bike rider in both free practice sessions for the Czech Republic Grand Prix.
Back on a track he knows from World Supersport and Superbike, Crutchlow finished ninth in both sessions after set-up changes made the Monster Yamaha more to his liking.
Crutchlow was 1.405sec from Dani Pedrosa (Honda) but less than half-a-second from fifth place.
“Today was a positive day and we made a good improvement with the bike and I feel like the front-end feeling I've been missing in the last few races is definitely better," said the Englishman. "We tried a new handlebar position, bringing them closer to me and it was a positive step.
"It is still not as good as I'd like it to be but we'll try and change the set-up of the bike for tomorrow to gain some more turning performance. I should have been a little bit quicker but I made a mistake on the last lap and I 'm sure I could have been in the top seven.
"Valentino (Rossi) and (Alvaro) Bautista just got me at the end but I'm confident I can be battling for around seventh place in the race on Sunday. Not having to learn the circuit today has been a big help and I've proved with some track knowledge I can finish in front of some guys with a lot more experience than me in MotoGP.
"Maybe I've been pushing too hard in the last few weeks without the track knowledge on new circuits, but today my pace was pretty consistent and it was a solid start and gives me a platform to build on now for the rest of the weekend.”
American team-mate Colin Edwards struggled for rear grip on his way to tenth and 12th in the two sessions. Edwards finished the day 0.454sec slower than Crutchlow.
“Today has been a bit of a struggle to be honest and I was hoping to be a bit higher up the timesheets than 12th," said Edwards. "We are working hard to find a solution but right now we're still missing something in the set-up of the bike that allows me to push at a level I feel comfortable and confident at.
"My biggest problem is the rear grip and it doesn't feel like the tyre is getting the force into the ground I need and I'm riding on a small contact patch. As a consequence that also has an impact on front feeling and that is not the formula for setting fast lap times.
"I'm running wide a lot and to make sure I can get the bike turned I have to slow the corner speed right down. But losing a lot of corner speed kills the lap time, so I've got have a sit down tonight with my crew and come up with a plan to change the bike for tomorrow to see if we can make it better.”