Valentino Rossi and Ducati looked in deep trouble as the Italian languished down in 15th place heading into the closing stages of Friday afternoon practice at Brno in the Czech Republic.
But the seven time MotoGP champion - who had been almost 2.5sec off the pace in the morning session - then jumped up to seventh in the final minutes of FP2, with a best lap time 1.291sec slower than Dani Pedrosa (Honda).
“Today we started better than we had at recent races. Although I'm seventh, our time isn't bad, and Spies and Dovizioso are ahead but close," said Rossi. "This is positive, but the really important thing will be whether we can continue improving like this tomorrow as well, cutting more tenths from my time, session by session.
"Today I went pretty well on the second part of the track, while I lost time in T1 and T2, so we have to try to work on those sections. We had a hard time at the start of this afternoon's session, because the hard tyre, which we thought we could work well for the race, was really sliding a lot.
"When we put on the soft, the situation improved, also because we made some additional changes with the front that helped us improve the feeling. We hope to be able to do the race with the soft, and tomorrow we'll try to do enough laps to verify that as well.”
Whilst Rossi was able to end his Friday track action on a positive note, team-mate Nicky Hayden was left to digest 14th place in both sessions.
The American, still choosing to use the GP11 rather than the modified GP11.1 steered by Rossi, was over two seconds behind Pedrosa.
“It was a frustrating day, really," said Hayden. "You have two weeks off, and you work hard and do all the little things that will help you when you come back. Then to have your first day back be probably your worst day of the year is pretty frustrating.
"The main thing is I don't have much grip from the rear, even on corner entry, and I'm spinning a lot on exit. There are a lot of long, fast corners here, and if you're slow there, you lose time.
"We tried a couple things to improve certain areas, but really we didn't find a big step forward. It was a pretty difficult day for me. I'm not happy with my performance, or with anything, so hopefully we can put this behind us tomorrow.”