JEREZ DE LA FRONTERA, SPAIN, APRIL 27 - It's rare that a MotoGP factory rider would be happy to finish ninth fastest in a field of 12 prototypes, and 21 riders overall, but that's how Yamaha's Ben Spies felt.
Spies finished the wet/dry Friday afternoon practice session ninth fastest after a slow start that he attributed to uncertainty over tire pressure that meant he "didn't have a good feeling going into the corners. We made a change to that. Made it better, then we made another change to the bike, made it better. Made another change to the bike, made it better. By the time I was actually really comfortable with the bike the tires were finished, the track was drying and the lap times slowed down.
"And at that point, when we look at the time sheets compared to everybody else that went a second or a second and a half quicker, we were the same speed. So actually I'm quite happy with the session. It's positive. we just didn't start off with a great package, so we ended up in P9 because in a rain session or a session like that, the faster times are going to come when there's more water on the track."
Spies' best time of 1:53.409 came late in the session on only his eight of nine laps at speed. Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa set the afternoon pace with a late lap of 1:50.780.
Last year's Yamaha YZR-M1 produced a "horrible feeling" every time in the rain, Spies said, so the comfort he feels on the 1000 is encouraging.
"And I race a lot better in the rain, too. To be as close as we were when everybody was more on the same level at the end of the session, I'm quite happy with it. I think it was a good session. We wanted to kinda take it easy too on Friday, just more work on the bike and that's what we did and see how the tires lasted with them being hard rain tires. Yeah, so I'm quite optimistic to see how the bike is in the full rain. I think it'll be much more pleasant for me to ride and I also know when the race starts I race a lot better in the rain, too. So it was a better session than it looked on paper, so I'm quite happy."
The improvement in times came with some suspension tweaks. On hard braking and hard acceleration, "the bike wasn't too bad. But in the fast sweepers where you make your time up through three, four, 10, 11, 12, I didn't have a good feeling. The bike was pretty harsh and just kind of softened it up in some areas, because the balance of the bike was quite good, it just wasn't planted. And once we got it it was good, but then we had the problem of the tires were completely gone, the track was half dry and the bike was moving around. But the feeling of the bike was good. It was mainly just suspension stuff and then obviously fiddling with the tire pressure. But now we know what tire pressure, we have everything dialed in to start a good session"
Spies, like most riders, wasn't entirely certain of the rain tire regulations or how many tires he had.
"I let the team take control of that, but we have more than enough and then obviously once we pick... I think today, I think it was, if we pick the soft or the hard, whatever it was, we get two more, maybe. I'm not sure. But, no I don't think the allocation's a problem at all. Because until qualifying we just used one set of tires the whole session anyway. I don't know if anybody switched tires at all in the whole session. I didn't."
Bridgestone brought a soft option rain tire this weekend, but Spies didn't use it. He used a hard the whole 45-minute session and set his fastest lap with 14 total laps on the tire, "where most people set their time with seven laps, six laps. So to be able to go as fast as we did with the tires being as bad as they are, is good in two ways, for the end of the race, too.
"Yeah, it was a good session. Just because we were P9 I'm not going to lose sleep over that. it's more the feeling I had with the bike at the end of the session was good and that's what matters."