Wet conditions on the opening day of the Valencia MotoGP season finale played into the hands of the Ducati riders, with factory duo Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden finishing third and fourth on the combined times.
The best lap times were set during the morning session, with the rain intensifying in the afternoon.
“Our bike works very well in the wet, so this morning I was able to push and to stay up there near the front," said third fastest Rossi. "In the afternoon we had a few more problems because we made a mistake with the rear setting. I couldn't manage to find grip under acceleration, or to ride the bike well like in the morning.
"I should add that we're a bit on the limit regarding the asphalt conditions, because it's very worn and has terrible grip. The rain and the cold make it worse, and it's very difficult to ride. We'll have to see how to proceed throughout the weekend, because if it stays wet, we could do pretty well. If it improves, we'll have to see how we are in the dry.”
While Rossi dropped to seventh in the afternoon, Hayden rose to second place behind Suzuki's Alvaro Bautista.
“This was actually the first time I've ever ridden the GP11.1 in the wet, and I was really happy with how it felt," said the American. "The track was extremely slippery. We came from Malaysia and Australia, where the surface would dry in no time, but here, even when it would stop raining, it just wouldn't dry.
"The grip was really low, especially on corner entry, but we made a few steps through the day that seemed to help. I'm not going to lie; it would've been nice to end up in P1, even though it's just Friday afternoon, but we spent a lot of time at the top and put up quite a few 'red helmets'. We'll see what the weather does tomorrow, but regardless, we got some good information.”
Rossi will debut a special helmet in memory of Marco Simoncelli on Saturday.