World champion in 125s in 2003, then again in 250s in both 2004 and 2005, Dani Pedrosa has marked himself out as a motorcycle racing talent of the highest order, but the young Spaniard knows that he faces his toughest season yet in 2006.

The 20-year old has to get used to a new bike, one much heavier than his former Honda RS250RW, before even tackling the problem of facing the world's top grand prix riders, led by former Honda favourite Valentino Rossi, but he appeared unconcerned when quizzed about the year ahead.

"For the moment, it looks like Ducati is doing well, and maybe Hayden, Melandri and Edwards are on their level," he said, when asked to name Rossi's likely rivals, "But pre-season is one thing, and racing is another, so we'll see what happens when the grands prix rolls around."

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Pre-season so far has included two test sessions in the sweltering heat of Sepang, where Pedrosa has been getting used to his new mount, and adjusting to the world of MotoGP.

"I'm very happy," he said of his first taste of the RC211V, "I've seen how everyone is reacting, from the mechanics to the engineers. The teamwork is great and I've never been backed by a factory this dedicated to a project like now. Everyone is doing more than their best.

"I'm satisfied with the way we've been improving every day. It's been positive, and I've noticed an improvement over the last sessions, basically because I've put in a lot of laps. We've got a bit more experience now, we know the bike a bit better and how the changes are going to affect it in this category. I've improved a bit with the clutch, but I'm having trouble turning, shifting weight, positioning the bike, controlling skidding and so on."

The sheer physical difference of stepping off a 250 and onto a MotoGP bike has taken Pedrosa a little by surprise, something he freely admitted in Malaysia.

"To tell you the truth, I'm a bit tired," he confirmed, "Everything is so demanding and I'm not fully ready for it. I've got blisters on my hands and that makes riding difficult. But I've improved over last November and hope to continue. Now I've got a few days to relax until getting back to work in Australia.

"I've ridden with both new and used tyres but, the more worn out the tyre, the more tired I get because I'm making more effort on the bike. The qualifying tyre was completely different, but hard to explain. It grips a lot better, and I was even a bit afraid of falling, but at least I know what that feels like. I still have to get used to its performance, so I didn't get the most out of it - but I did do my best time with it."

Told that some of his fellow riders have named him as a potential threat this year, Pedrosa laughs off comparisons with the leading runners, and admits that he has not yet had a chance to compare himself directly with anyone but his team-mate.

"I've only coincided with Nicky Hayden for a few laps, and saw the rest from a distance," he revealed, "It's been a good experience, because it's given me the chance to see some different styles and modify the way I take the curves, but the truth is we that we concentrated on doing our own thing.

"I think the rest exaggerating [by including me as a contender], because I'm still not ready yet. I still have a lot to learn. The more I'm in, the more things I see that influence the outcome of a race. For the moment, though, it's still out of my reach."