Jorge Lorenzo, who needs to score four points on Sunday to secure the 2008 MotoGP rookie of the year title ahead of Andrea Dovizioso, circulated a worrying four-seconds off the pace during the start of Saturday's dry qualifying session for the Valencia season finale.
The Estoril winner was still 18th and last with 20 minutes of the hour remaining, before salvaging seventh with qualifying tyres fitted to his Fiat Yamaha – but, like team-mate Valentino Rossi, needs a much better set-up should the race also be dry.
"We don't really know what happened here today," said Jorge. "At the start of the practice I was four seconds slower than the top riders and this is really too much! I couldn't ride how I wanted and it is quite frustrating here, because I really want to finish with a good race.
"Anyway now we need to look at the data and work out what is going on, I have confidence in my team that we will find a way. We also need to work on the tyres with Michelin because at the moment I don't have the grip or confidence that I need and we haven't really had enough dry time to find the right balance.
"It will be hard tomorrow but I will try to start fast and pass some riders and then see what I can do," concluded the home star.
"This was a very difficult session for us and we didn't expect to have so many problems here, at a circuit at which we have already tested at the end of 2007," admitted team manager Daniele Romagnoli. "We are struggling to find rear grip and because of this Jorge doesn't have enough confidence on the entry to the corner."