Ben Spies was in sparkling form to post a best time of 1'55.954 that secured him a stunning third place on the timesheets. Earlier on a balmy night in Doha, Spies had topped the timesheets for a brief period in the six-hour session that ran from 6pm to midnight.
What made the reigning World Superbike champion's performance even more remarkable was he had never ridden under the floodlights at the Losail International Circuit before. Yet Spies finished just over 0.2s behind circuit specialist and triple Qatar race winner Casey Stoner with Valentino Rossi once again quickest on his factory Yamaha YZR-M1 machine.
The 25-year-old was forced to finish early after a crash at the second corner in the final hour while using a hard compound Bridgestone front tyre. But he declared himself delighted with progress in his 44-lap stint.
Fellow Texan Colin Edwards was equally impressive in fourth position after he posted a best time of 1'57.541 in a 59-lap spell. Edwards continued to fine-tune the race set-up of his YZR-M1 machine, working on Yamaha's new swingarm and Bridgestone's new hard compound front tyre.
"I know this track from last year but riding under the floodlights is definitely a bit different and nothing I've experienced before. The perception of speed is much faster with it being at night but I'm having a lot of fun. It's really well lit up but there are a couple of darker spots on the track that you have to get used to but I've not done too bad in adjusting to the lights. I know the track but any track I go to on a MotoGP bike definitely makes it different because of the lines you take. Some of the lines I'd take on the superbike just don't work but I felt like it was coming together good and following a couple of people it felt like I was doing more of the right things than I was in Malaysia. Obviously it is great for me to be high up the timesheets but I'm still taking baby steps to improve and not getting carried away."
"The crash was nothing too serious. I was running the hard front and I wasn't getting a good feeling from it. We changed the pressure to try and help for my second run but I just lost the front at the second corner. But to be third is fantastic for my guys at Monster Yamaha Tech 3. They have been giving me great support."
"It was a good night. It didn't start off too great and it took me a while to get into the groove. We played around with the set-up using some of the new parts I'd liked in Sepang and also running some of last year's pieces to get some good information. The lap time was about the same so around this track the new parts aren't making the difference like they did in Malaysia. I did a long run on the hard front and I like it. I did race distance on it and it felt really good. I ended up doing 27 laps on it, which is five more than race distance, and it still felt really good. I'm getting the feedback I need at full lean angle and it holds the turn much better."
Press release courtesy of Monster Yamaha Tech3