Chris Vermeulen put in a solid performance on the first day of his MotoGP return as a stand-in for the injured Colin Edwards at Le Mans.
The Australian, who won the wet 2007 French MotoGP for Suzuki, left grand prix at the end of 2009 for a return to WSBK - but has been sidelined by a knee injury for most of the last two years.
Called up to replace Edwards by Forward Racing, Vermeulen had no prior laps on the Suter-BMW CRT machine heading into Friday practice, but made clear progress as he moved from 7.077s off countryman Casey Stoner in FP1 to 5.643s after FP2.
Perhaps of more relevance, Vermeulen finished day one within two-seconds of the main CRT pack - and less than one-second from PBM's James Ellison.
“First of all I would like to thank the NGM Mobile Forward Racing Team for giving me the opportunity, it's great to be back in the premier class of motorcycle racing,” said Vermeulen.
“Definitely wasn't easy to start again after about eight months of no riding... to feel the brakes and the tyres and this sort of racing bike again. But I really enjoyed my time on the bike today.
“We have a lot of work to do with development on the bike and I think everybody knows that. I hope my feedback is positive for the team and I'm sure tomorrow we can improve the bike and hopefully go a bit quicker.”
Crew chief Kornelis Veldeman appreciates Vermeulen's input and intends to try and morph the bike more to his personal liking on Saturday.
“Having Chris on the bike today has been positive for both Chris and the team,” said Veldeman. “He has given us his feedback on the bike: good comments, how the bike reacts. Step-by-step Chris is improving his lap times, from this morning we improved a few seconds and there is room for improvement after making some changes.
“All and all we are working in the right direction. The focus for tomorrow will be the chassis and keep working on the electronics for the engine break, we need to provide him more engine brake compared to what Colin usually uses.”
Edwards, who broke his collarbone at Estoril, intends to return for the following Catalan round.