After lowly eleventh place finishes in the opening 2012 MotoGP rounds, Ben Spies was back on form in Estoril in Friday, during free for the Portuguese Grand Prix.

The Factory Yamaha star was one of the first riders to venture out in the morning session, braving mixed track conditions of wet and dry to test a 'huge' set-up change.

The new direction proved to be confidence inspiring, Spies topping the morning timesheets then running second fastest in the dry afternoon session, which he finished second to world champion Casey Stoner by 0.321s.

"It's a good feeling today but it's still early, it's Friday," Spies warned, before adding: "The most important thing is I have to thank my crew, they made a huge change to the bike, not only to the front but we also changed some rider position settings that I asked for and the bike seems good.

"Not only are the lap times fast, it's much easier to ride at that speed than the slower times at Jerez," he revealed. "Right now the bike is quick and easy to ride, we need to make some more improvements to it. To be in the top three on the first day after two difficult weekends is a positive start."

"Now it's a matter of some little adjustments, but Ben is up there which is the most important thing," added team director Massimo Meregalli.

Team-mate and world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo was fifth fastest after sitting out the morning session.