There was reason for optimism in the Marc VDS garage on Tuesday evening as a new factory chassis and electronics upgrades soon gave riders Jack Miller and Tito Rabat confidence on the front end of the bike that was sorely lacking throughout 2016.
Both men were given the same frame that Cal Crutchlow has used so successfully since the British Grand Prix at Silverstone for the test, and the difference on what Miller and Rabat were using before was pronounced.
Miller, who ended the day eleventh fastest, a sizeable 1.4s quicker than his best time from Sunday's race, felt it helped with corner speed, and overall front feeling, a facet he struggled with all year.
“It felt pretty good,” he said. “The frame seemed to suit my riding style a lot more. I had a lot more feeling coming off the front tyre than I've had for the past two years. It's definitely a big improvement.
“It's a big step in the right direction because as you've known I've been struggling to find something. It was really nice today to be able to use some corner speed, to hit the same line every time at turn four.
“I'm really liking the direction we took today in terms of bike set-up. You see it in the lap time as well. We improved the lap time. The fastest lap was better than the race. It was on my own too so I was pretty happy with that. We were a bit limited on tyres but we'll see what happens tomorrow.
“I was on the frame the other guys have tested. Cal was on it for most of the year. The other guys didn't ride it too much but I really enjoyed it. It's definitely a little bit softer.
“There is more movement with it but I got a really good reading off the front tyre. Definitely I think it's a real step in the right direction for my riding style. We went to a swingarm that I had already checked before. I back checked it and it seemed to work really well.”
Rabat was in agreement, stating, “I tried the new chassis. I felt a lot of improvement with the front feeling and many things that can work.
“The style is much more natural for me. More than the front, you don't need to attack the corner so much and you can do a little more corner speed. For my style anyway. Then all this helps to have less wheelie, to keep the temperature in the tyre and to attack more the corner. It's a good start.”
Having finished the final race of the season in a disappointing 15th and 17th places, both men also benefited from electronics upgrades, which Miller said weren't forthcoming sooner because of his '16 crew chief's move to Jorge Lorenzo's garage at Ducati.
“Of course with new bits and pieces and new maps, that we weren't able to have in the last few GPs because Cristian [Gabarrini] was going to Ducati so we sort of had to wait. Of course we're looking forward to the Jerez test to see how this new engine goes.
“It was definitely nice to have a wheelie control that actually worked today even without wings. I think I had less wheelie today without wings than I had all season.”
Again, Rabat agreed: “We focused on our problems, which was to put power on the ground without making a lot of wheelie. Now it's much smoother.
“I'm quite happy from the last round. It's the first time I can open gas, focus of where I put my body and not fight with the bike on the straight. Of course we have to confirm that tomorrow.
“Now tomorrow we have more opportunities to make a time attack. But I'm very comfortable with the new team, a new crew chief. The team transmits to me a lot of calm. I ride a lot smoother like in Moto2. It's good to make that.”
Miller also had his first chance to work with new crew chief Ramon Aurin, formerly of Dani Pedrosa's team. The Australian also has a new data technician - Andy Griffiths - and mapping technician - Yoshihiko Ishimoto - working in his crew.