It might not have been the big leap in performance that Ben Spies and Colin Edwards had hoped for, but an engine upgrade boosted their confidence at the start of their home race in Laguna Seca.
Texan Spies ended opening practice in fifth place but he was just shy of one second away from fastest rider Casey Stoner as the Monster Tech 3 Yamaha squad took delivery of a small engine upgrade in California.
Spies clocked a best time of 1.22.640 to finish just 0.081s behind Dani Pedrosa but the 26-year-old said the upgraded YZR-M1 motor specification was a small step in performance.
Spies, who is confident he can threaten for a podium finish in his home race, said: “It is funny but I know this track so well, yet having not been here for a while it took me a bit of time to remember it. I'm pretty happy to be in the top five after the first session and I'm also pleased with the lap times by the end. Coming home and being in front of my home crowd, I can't be disappointed with my position after the first day. I'm sure we can make the bike a lot better because I had a couple of small issues that are easy to fix. I want the bike to absorb the bumps a little better but it is nothing that is really holding me back too much. We got an upgrade and I'm grateful to Yamaha for that and I'm definitely in the ballpark for the rest of the weekend. I need a few tenths per lap but I think I can be much closer to the front tomorrow. At the end I put in a string of laps that weren't super-fast, but I was really consistent and I'm happy with that.”
Fellow Texan Edwards was perhaps the happier of the two with the performance improvement as he ended the session in eighth place.
The 36-year-old had posed a top five threat for long periods but a best time of 1.22.971 was just 0.069s away from fellow American Nicky Hayden on the factory Ducati.
The double World Superbike champion said: ““I'm really happy to be back on home soil and racing in front of the American fans and I'm also happy because the practice session went pretty good.
"The track felt the cleanest it has ever done on the first day and I was happy with the bike to show more of my true potential. I started on the soft front and rear tyres and I wasn't able to turn as good as I wanted but right at the end we switched to the hard options and I went almost half-a-second faster.
"I've already made my mind up to use the hard front for the race and I'm sure with some more changes we'll be able to get some more feeling. But the hard tyre gives me more confidence. I'm happier with the performance of the bike too and I want to say a big thanks to Yamaha for giving me their support as always. The improved specification just makes it feel easier and more comfortable to do the lap time and I'm confident of a strong weekend.”