Jorge Lorenzo believes he is better shape than fifth on the Friday MotoGP practice timesheets at the Circuit of the Americas would suggest.
The reigning world champion, widely predicted to be moving to Ducati next season, was forced to switch to a less-favoured setting on his spare bike after an engine problem in the afternoon.
But even so, the Movistar Yamaha rider admits it would have been difficult to match Honda's Marc Marquez, who finished the day 0.8s clear of the field as he seeks to keep his perfect Austin win streak alive for a fourth season.
“This afternoon we had some problems with the engine on the first bike,” Lorenzo revealed. “We couldn't continue with this bike, that had the best setting, and with the second bike we tried a different setting that was not good.
“And also the tyres; I put the soft front tyre and it was not working well at 2 o clock in the afternoon with this temperature.
“So finally our potential was much better than this fifth position I think and tomorrow if we can put all the best things together we can be - I don't know as fast as Marquez, because he is really fast. I don't think it is the Honda making the difference, it is him; he loves this track and is very comfortable with it.”
The next best Honda rider after Marquez was his team-mate Dani Pedrosa, just tenth fastest.
In contrast to Marquez's COTA record, Lorenzo has claimed just one podium - third place in the inaugural 2013 event - but feels in better shape than ever before.
“We can be closer than in other years and maybe in a long race we can be constant and competitive. For Austin, we start in a quite good way.” declared the #99, who crashed out of last Sunday's Argentine race before the mandatory bike swap.
“We have to not crash, make a good result and then go to Jerez where things can change a lot.”
Following last weekend's tyre issues, Michelin made a last minute change to a stiffer rear construction this weekend. Only the soft was available on Friday, with the medium arriving tonight.
“The right side looked quite used at the end of the session. That's a little bit because we could just use the soft one, we didn't have any more options. Tomorrow Michelin will bring a harder compound. So we have to try, I think in the morning, and see if on the right side we don't have this problem of use.”
Having regularly struggled whenever Bridgestone delivered 'hear-resistant' tyres, the Spaniard was relieved to find he had no problems with the latest Michelin.
“To be honest I was a little bit worried. A little bit scared. To see if these new tyres were very difficult to warm up. But from the morning I saw that just in a few corners the tyre was almost ready to push and I'm happy with this rear tyre that Michelin brought.
“Probably it is not completely the same as the other one, but it is quite close. Let's see tomorrow with the harder one, if the difference is small or much worse.”
In terms of the front tyre, Lorenzo currently favours the medium option – Michelin making three compounds available instead of the usual two.
“The soft is too soft, especially in the afternoon. And the [medium] could be the race tyre, because some riders tried the hardest option and were 'locking' in a straight line.”
Team-mate Valentino Rossi was seventh fastest.
B y Peter McLaren
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