Ben Spies is optimistic that he can put his tough start to the 2012 MotoGP campaign behind him at Estoril after taking a step forward in practice.
The Yamaha rider struggled badly for race pace in Qatar and Spain, finishing the first two rounds of the season in distant 11th places. But in Portugal on Friday, Spies was quickest in the damp first practice session, then second to Casey Stoner in the afternoon.
"It's a good feeling today but it's still early, it's Friday," said Spies. "The most important thing is I have to thank my crew, they made a huge change to the bike, not only to the front but we also changed some rider position settings that I asked for and the bike seems good. Not only are the lap times fast, it's much easier to ride at that speed than the slower times at Jerez.
"Right now the bike is quick and easy to ride, we need to make some more improvements to it. To be in the top three on the first day after two difficult weekends is a positive start."
Spies' championship-leading teammate Jorge Lorenzo was only fifth quickest, and less happy with his Yamaha.
"Today was so-so because we didn't find a good setup or a good feeling with the bike," said Lorenzo. "Also the new asphalt is not the best, I think it's worse than last year in some places and also the weather doesn't help with some wet patches in corners. I expect a lot of things to improve tomorrow, especially the rear of the bike which is not right in some corners."