Loris Capirossi put his Rizla Suzuki into an excellent third position, then fell, during the closing stages of Friday's free practice session for his home Italian MotoGP.
But the turn one lowside couldn't dampen his enthusiasm after being the third and final rider within one-second of Valentino Rossi.
“Apart from the crash it has been a very positive day here in Mugello”!” said Capirossi, who has crashed out of the last two races, but was fifth at Mugello last season. “We started with two different bikes and one was very good and gave me a good feeling. Overall I am very happy with the day's work.
“I made the mistake and crashed at the end, it was my fault and I know what caused it so it is no big problem. I know we can still improve this weekend and I am confident for the race.”
“After a difficult start to the year it is obviously encouraging to see Loris put the bike in the top-three,” said team manager Paul Denning. “The guys have made some setting changes which have helped his confidence and feedback on the bike.
“There are still some decent steps to make, but I think we have a good base to work from for the rest of the weekend and although Loris's bike ended up in the gravel trap at the end, let's hope that has got it out of the way for the weekend.”
Capirossi's rookie team-mate Alvaro Bautista was 17th and last, 5.5sec from Rossi, on his MotoGP 'return' - having pulled out of the previous Le Mans round due to his recently fractured collarbone.
“I had a very hard practice because I thought I was in better condition than I am,” said the Spaniard. “I feel better than I did at Le Mans, but it is still very hard to change direction and I don't have enough strength in my left arm to ride the bike how I would like to. I am using all my body and this is making me go slower than I want. My target this weekend is to get more confident with the bike and to get a good feeling. I am determined to finish on Sunday, so that is my first goal.”
“After a visit to the Clinica Mobile this evening and perhaps some treatment to reduce the pain significantly tomorrow - which he didn't have today - he should be in a position to improve a lot and to do his best to complete the grand prix on Sunday,” commented Denning.