While they may not have had the quickest factory package during the three day MotoGP pre-season test at Sepang, the satellite San Carlo Gresini team hinted that Honda will at least have strength in numbers after Toni Elias posted another top five showing.
With Dani Pedrosa hampered by his knee injury and Andrea Dovizioso taking time adapting to Bridgestone tyres, it was up to Elias to fly the HRC flag aboard the factory-specification RC212V.
Continuing to lower his best lap over the three days, the Spaniard would eventually complete the test with a best of 2mins 01.560secs, just half a second off pace setter Casey Stoner. Marking an impressive return to the Gresini team, Elias was delighted with the early promise of the bike.
“I'm very happy as we improved day by day. We started the work on a completely new machine and the feeling was good since the very first day. We still have to do a lot of runs on the track but the direction we are working on is good. There is a nice atmosphere in the garage. It's really a great team.”
Although largely overshadowed by his new team-mate, Alex de Angelis nonetheless crept closer to the top ten as the test came to a close, the San Marino rider finishing 11th overall, eight tenths behind Elias.
“Today we made a further step forward and I'm very glad about this. Today's pace was significantly faster with a better feeling with the machine. We focused on the machine setting and the tyres.
“The new 2009 technical package needs work but I think we are going in the right direction. I'm very motivated. There is still a lot of work to do to reduce the gap from the first riders but I can't wait to be in Qatar for the next test.”
Following an indifferent 2008 season, San Carlo Gresini manager Fausto Gresini was also pleased with the team's early showing.
"I'm definitively happy. It has been a very positive test, thanks to the hard work of the team and the good material prepared by HRC. I couldn't wait to see the new RC212V on track and at the end I was very excited to see that day by day our lap time was faster and faster and the gap from the first riders always smaller.
“Both the riders and the team are very motivated and after this test we are even more optimistic for this MotoGP season."