Randy de Puniet is hoping that his best MotoGP finish since 2007 will lead to the LCR Honda rider being 'really competitive' for the rest of the season.
The Frenchman, labelled as a fast qualifier but inconsistent racer, claimed a best finish of sixth with the satellite Honda squad last season, prompting a winter rethink to try and convert impressive one-lap pace into race results.
The opening two rounds of this year saw de Puniet just tenth and eleventh, but he was a factor throughout the Spanish Grand Prix weekend – qualifying fifth then claiming fourth in the race.
de Puniet started well and held fifth for much of the event, which then became fourth when Jorge Lorenzo crashed out in the closing stages.
The #14 took the chequered flag 20 seconds behind third placed Casey Stoner, but a mistake-free ride kept his Playboy-backed bike just out of reach of Marco Melandri, Loris Capirossi, Colin Edwards and Andrea Dovizioso.
As well as being the top satellite rider in the race, de Puniet was also the fastest non-factory rider in terms of race lap. Randy's best lap was sixth best, just a quarter of a second behind Lorenzo and Dovizioso (Honda) and 0.343sec quicker than Capirossi (Suzuki).
“It was a perfect weekend for me and the team, so my thanks to them. When I enjoy the bike I can really go fast, and people could see that today,” said de Puniet.
“The bike was very easy to ride and I had fun. I made a good start and when Dovizioso overtook me I remained concentrated to try and keep my position. After a few laps he made a mistake and I got back into fifth place. Then at the end I finished in fourth place.
“Honestly, I think if we can keep this pace for the rest of the season we can be really competitive. However, we must keep our feet on the ground because we restart from zero at Le Mans. My goal is to finish all the races and get as many points as possible.”
de Puniet's best MotoGP finish was a second place for Kawasaki at the 2007 Japanese Grand Prix.
Round four of the 2009 championship will be de Puniet's home race at Le Mans.