MONTMELO, SPAIN, JULY 2: Monster Yamaha Tech 3's Ben Spies made up for a slow start by finishing with the fifth fastest time in first practice for Sunday's Catalunya Grand Prix north of Barcelona.Spies admitted he was a little lost as he methodically learned his way around the 2.937-mile, 16-turn course, yet another new circuit for the Texan. Once he felt comfortable, and with a change of machinery.When the session ended he'd clocked a lap time (1:43.854) just six-tenths slower than pace-setter Jorge Lorenzo, the Fiat Yamaha rider who knows the track well.Now it's up to Spies and the team to put what they learned to use as he approaches his first ever qualifying session on the Circuit of Catalunya.

"I was a bit lost in the beginning," he said after practice in the Alpinestars hospitality unit. "We kinda started out with the slowest set-up we thought with the tires. Kinda let me learn the track and we had two different set-ups with the bike and came in, changed tires over to the other bike. Found quite a bit of difference turning for me. Found the bike a bit better. Found it able to actually let off the brake and actually turn the bike. Put on the hard front, found a whole lot of time in that. It was a lot more stable. By the time we put the hard front on, we had over race distance on the rear and got my quickest lap on the hard tire."We came in with ten minutes to go and put a softer rear tire on and the lap times, obviously, the lap times dropped dramatically. The front of the bike was the main goal to make work. We know the bike's going to be spinning. The hard tire worked good. Unfortunately, but the time I was actually able to get going and know where I was going, the hard was done and had over race distance. So we're going to concentrate on that tomorrow morning. Track's good, bike's good. I think we can make it better. Not a bad first session."The near 100 degree ambient heat wasn't a problem for Spies, who was turning laps on the track on his Specialized bicycle before 7:00 a.m. It was the 127 degree track temperature that would wreak havoc on the tires. The combination of high wear on hard tires on a hot track made for a number of spectacular slides as the session progressed."Didn't feel too bad riding. Didn't feel like sweltering hot," Spies said. "Wasn't too bad. I think everybody's in the same boat. I think there's going to be a lot of people that can put in the fast lap, but it's who can manage the tire, who can ride with the bike sideways. All that."But to do the first session not knowing the place, the long turns, the last series of right-handers that I still didn't quite figure out, but definitely got better in the end, I'm happy with that. I'll definitely sleep better tonight knowing we don't have so much work to do tomorrow. The bike's working relatively well. I'm definitely happy. It's not perfect, but for one hour with the track, finding as much time as we did with the set-up, me getting up to speed, I'm really, really happy with it."

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Henny Ray Abrams | Contributing Editor

Abrams is the longest-serving contributor at Cycle News. Over the course of his 35-some years of writing and shooting photos, he’s covered events from MotoGP to the Motocross World Championship - and everything in between.

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