American Ben Spies got within 0.194sec of a clean sweep of Friday's free practice sessions, on an ever changing track surface, at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Factory Yamaha rider, runner-up from pole as a Tech 3 Yamaha rider at Indy last year, conquered the slippery morning session on the new asphalt, before narrowly losing out to world championship leader Casey Stoner at the end of the afternoon session.
Spies, who took his first MotoGP win at Assen this year, expects further big changes from the track - and is still hampered by a trapped nerve in his neck.
“I feel a lot better now, almost ok but when I'm off the bike I'm more in pain which is frustrating," said Spies. "It was a good start today, the first session I was waiting to see if the track was going to stay the same but in the end in the afternoon it improved a lot.
"We were able to be in the top three in both sessions which is great. The track is going to get even better for tomorrow so we're looking forward to making another step forward and seeing what we can do.”
While Spies revelled in the abnormal conditions, team-mate and reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo struggled to ninth in FP1, before striding up the order to fourth (+0.737sec) in the afternoon.
"I started today struggling with the new asphalt," confessed Lorenzo. "The morning was not good, but FP2 was much better and my feeling was really good. I've got grip on the rear now but I still have some problems with the front. I think we can still improve a lot in some parts. Ben is riding very, very well and it means I can be closer. I will try tomorrow to be at the same level as him.”
Team manager Wilco Zeelenberg said that controlling tyre wear would be one of the main priorities for the race.
“The tyres are going down quite quickly as there is still a lot of dirt on the track so we need to find a way to ensure we can finish the race with enough grip," said the Dutchman. "We compared two different set ups, one was clearly better so for tomorrow we know our direction. For today we are happy with the improvements we have made.”