Cal Crutchlow carried his impressive winter testing form into Thursday night's practice session for the season-opening Qatar MotoGP, when he was sixth and the fastest satellite rider.
The Englishman put his Monster Yamaha Tech 3 into first place at the midpoint of the 45-minute session, before being listed 0.9sec from Honda's Casey Stoner at the close of the first of four nights at the Losail Circuit.
“That's not a bad way to start 2012 at all and I'm pretty happy to be in the top six,” said Crutchlow. “At the start of the session I was way down and not really going as quick as I should, but once I got my head down and got into a good rhythm I was always around the top six and that is very positive.
“I didn't change anything on the bike at all and I kept the same soft rear tyre on throughout, so I'm sure had we put in a new tyre at the end like some of the others did, I could have been a bit faster and possibly inside the top four.
“I'd like to get the bike turning better but I'm not going to complain starting the new season inside the top six. It is a good platform to build on for the rest of the weekend and now I'm really looking forward to the race on Sunday night."
New team-mate Andrea Dovizioso was less than 0.2s behind Crutchlow in eighth place as he continues to adapt to M1 machinery.
“I'm satisfied with the first session and the feeling with the bike was immediately good,” said the former Honda rider. “Straightaway I had a better feeling at the beginning than I did at the last test in Jerez, so we could work on improving the bike. I still need to understand how to use the maximum potential of the Yamaha.
“It has some very good points, which I like a lot, but I know in some parts I can be faster, particularly on the exit of the corner. We need to improve in that area but I know we have some good ideas for tomorrow and I am confident we will make the bike better. The gap to the front is quite big at the moment but tomorrow the conditions will be better and I am sure I will be much closer.”
Two more practice sessions will take place on Friday evening.