Factory Ducati riders Nicky Hayden and Valentino Rossi finished Friday morning practice for the Indianapolis MotoGP in fifth and sixth places, but tumbled down the timesheets during as the afternoon as the slippery new asphalt released more and more grip.
Home star Hayden, who will race the GP11.1 for the first time on Sunday, concluded the afternoon in eighth place, one-second from Repsol Honda's Casey Stoner.
“It definitely took a few laps to feel out the new surface and get some rubber down this morning, but toward the end of the afternoon session, you could really start carrying some speed in a few corners," said Nicky.
"I have to remember that I probably need a little bit of time to understand the bike, and the team needs more time to understand which direction to work. Still, we're too far off the pace for my home track, and I certainly hoped to be faster today.
"We'll just stay positive and keep working toward Sunday. The new bike definitely does some things better, but we've got to get some weight to transfer to the front so that I can get it to turn.”
Rossi, just eleventh fastest and behind satellite Ducati rider Randy de Puniet, underestimated how much the circuit would change during the day.
“This morning the track conditions were really critical," began Rossi. "There was no grip, and it seemed like we were riding in the wet. Things improved a lot in the afternoon though, which is a sign that the asphalt is good and that it was just very dirty since it hadn't been ridden on yet. It's also a good sign for tomorrow because the conditions should continue to improve. Also, there are fewer bumps, so they did a good job.
"As for us, we didn't expect the grip to improve so much this afternoon and we had to chase a setup the whole session, as I really couldn't feel the bike. Tomorrow we'll completely change the balance. Nicky didn't go bad, so we'll try to improve as well: the step forward that we made at Brno is still there. We just tried a set-up a little too strange since we didn't expect the conditions to change so much from one session to the next.”
Rossi was 1.7sec slower than Stoner.