With the future of the Suzuki MotoGP team still hanging in the balance, Alvaro Bautista provided a deserved morale boast by leading Friday afternoon's wet practice session for the Valencia season finale.
Bautista, whose 2012 plans are also undecided, improved from eleventh in the damp morning session to lead the fully wet afternoon outing by 0.314sec over Ducati's Nicky Hayden.
"In this morning's session I had a good feeling at the start, but as the track became drier it wasn't as good and I couldn't ride at the limit," Bautista explained. "The bike moved a lot and was spinning-up all over the track, so it was very difficult.
"In the second session, after the heavy rain, the track was much wetter and the conditions were a lot worse than this morning for all the riders, so it was essential that you rode smoothly and carefully. We changed some settings in the bike to help me get a confident feeling in the GSV-R and at the end of the session I was able to find a good rhythm.
"We finished first today and although it's only the second free practice, you cannot improve as much in the wet as you can in the dry, so this is very good for us.
"I hope that tomorrow we can make some improvements in drying conditions like we had earlier today, but if it is totally dry we still have plenty of work to do to get ready," concluded the home Spanish star.
Team manager Paul Denning gave credit to both rider and bike.
“Winter feels like it has arrived in Valencia and it didn't look like the most pleasant day to be on a Grand Prix bike out there. That said, cold and low grip conditions were always the situation that caused us the most problems and as we saw at Phillip Island a few weeks back - and again today - the steps that Suzuki has taken with the GSV-R have again proven to be very effective," he said.
"However, improvements to the motorcycle aren't enough because you also need a confident and capable rider and Álvaro looked very assured and smooth in the full wet conditions this afternoon – it was nice to see his name at the top of the sheets. I think Álvaro – and everyone else – would prefer some dry, sunny running over the next couple of days, but whatever the weather brings our intention is to push to the maximum and achieve the best result we can.”
World champion Casey Stoner (Honda) led on the drier morning track, when he recorded the fastest time of the day.