Bradley Smith began Friday at the Tech 3 team's home French MotoGP with a fast fall, but finished it as the top Yamaha rider.
The Englishman had lowsided from his M1 in the opening minutes of the morning session at Le Mans, watching helplessly as his bike cart-wheeled through the gravel at the end of the back straight.
Smith concluded FP1 in eleventh on his spare machine, then sliced 1.5s off his lap time as he stormed up the timesheets to fourth during a trouble free afternoon session. Smith's best lap was 0.468s behind pace setter Marc Marquez on a day when the next best Yamaha rider was Factory star Jorge Lorenzo in seventh.
"After starting the day in a less than ideal way, I am really pleased with what we managed to achieve this afternoon,” said Smith. “I am feeling very happy with the bike now, as due to some of the issues we have experienced recently we decided to divert back to the what I was using in Qatar. Therefore, I am confident and I know that I can go fast with it.
“At the same time, I am slightly disappointed that we couldn't succeed with our experimentation, but I am excited to continue in this manner during the next sessions. Tomorrow the plan is to fine-tune the setup and then try my best in qualifying to get as high up the grid as I can. Again, I feel confident, am back on the road to completeness and can't wait to put on a good show for the fans. ”
Rookie team-mate Pol Espargaro was eleventh fastest, but only one-second from world champion Marquez.
“All in all it has been a positive day,” said the Spaniard. “This morning we had a really good start and after FP2, I have to say that I'm satisfied with our rhythm as we used the same front tyre for the whole session, and were still able to improve our lap time at the end.
“We tried different geometric modification on the bike, but not everything went according to plan. So therefore, we went back to our setting from this morning and were able to improve again. This also gives me a lot of confidence for tomorrow and I think we are in better situation than in Jerez.”