Toni Elias made a promising start to his career as a 'factory' Honda rider, by putting his new Gresini-run RC212V ahead of the official Repsol riders during day one of testing at Sepang on Thursday.
Riding with a pneumatic-valve engine for the first time, the 2006 Estoril grand prix winner set the fifth fastest lap time, just over one second behind Suzuki's Loris Capirossi but one place and 0.202sec quicker than the fastest Repsol machine of Andrea Dovizioso.
“I immediately found quite a good feeling with the [factory] bike,” said the Spaniard, returning to Gresini after one season at Pramac Ducati. “Being the first day back after a long break, our thought was just to put laps on the bike, to regain the rhythm and also to get a feel for the new engine. It is not easy to give 100% right away, but I am satisfied, both with the bike and with the team. This test session is very important with a view to the coming season, and I am very motivated.”
Just how different Toni's factory machine is from the other satellite RCV riders isn't fully clear, since they also have a pneumatic-valve engine for this season - and team-mate Alex de Angelis found the 2009 satellite bike to be substantially different from the ex-Shinya Nakano 'pneumatic' he tried in late 2008 testing.
“At Jerez [last November] I had tried Nakano's bike but this is much different both in terms of power delivery and chassis,” revealed Alex, who set the twelfth fastest lap time. “I have to understand it better and to adapt myself a bit. In particular, I was not able to let go and to hug the corners as I would like, which prevented me from opening the throttle. We have different solutions to try though, and tomorrow I will continue to put kilometres on the clock and to understand and study the bike better.”
"Finally, the 2009 season gets underway for Team San Carlo Honda Gresini: a very important season in which we can definitely play a competitive role with the bike and rider package that we have at our disposal, declared team manger Fausto Gresini. “With the test calendar reduced by a lot, this session in Malaysia is even more important for pre-season preparations. Tomorrow and Saturday we will have other work to carry out to adapt ourselves to the new 2009 version RC212V with pneumatic valve engine."