Alvaro Bautista is hoping the soft rear tyre can last a race distance after setting a surprise second fastest lap time in Friday practice for his home Catalunya MotoGP round.

The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider's fortunes were transformed after joining many of his rivals in making the soft tyre switch in the latter stages of the afternoon session.

Just tenth quickest in the morning, Bautista led the way with just five minutes of the afternoon to go, before Yamaha's world championship leader Jorge Lorenzo edged back ahead by 0.2sec.

"It has been a really good start and the guys have done a great job," said Bautista. "This morning I was struggling for rear traction but this afternoon it improved a lot. I didn't have a good feeling on the hard tyre no matter what we changed on the setting, but on the soft tyre my pace was decent."

Bautista will now test the endurance of the soft rear on Saturday.

"Tomorrow we'll try to see if we can do full race distance on the soft tyre because it would be a great option for us if we can," he said. "We'll work in that direction tomorrow and hopefully we'll get some joy but for now we're happy anyway."

The late Marco Simoncelli took pole for Gresini Honda last year at Catalunya and team principal Fausto Gresini was proud to see one of his machines back at the front.

"It is nice to see one of our bikes up at the top of MotoGP again and it makes me very proud," he said. "We deserve it because of the professionalism and effort we put into the job, as do San Carlo because they have never lost faith in us.

"Tomorrow with a few small changes Alvaro can build on this result and improve again. We believe in him."

Former Suzuki rider Bautista has taken a best finish of sixth this year.


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