Marco Melandri has gone from 13th and last, in round one at Qatar, to fifth and the top satellite rider, during round four at Mugello on Sunday.

And the Italian was just 0.032sec behind factory Ducati rider and former team-mate Casey Stoner, whom Melandri and fellow satellite RCV rider Randy de Puniet battled with right to the line.

"After the warm-up this morning I knew I was in better shape and I'm happy to have been able to produce a race like that," said Melandri, the only Honda rider to have switched back to Showa suspension.

"I honestly didn't think I'd be battling with Stoner and de Puniet today because I thought they would both have a higher pace than me but we did a great job, I got a fantastic start and other than losing a little time behind Hayden my pace was good.

"I want to thank the team, who have suffered in silence all weekend, and this result shows that in future we can never lose faith in our possibilities in a race even when things don't go our way in practice," added Melandri, who set the fourth fastest lap of the race.

Countryman and rookie team-mate Marco Simoncelli believes he could have joined in the fight for fourth had he not run off track on the opening lap. The former 250cc world champion recovered to take ninth place.

"If it wasn't for the mistake on the first lap I would have been right up there today," he said. "I was behind Hayden when he passed Espargaro but I couldn't quite make it through - there wasn't enough space and I miscalculated it. We touched and I ran off the track. Thankfully I stayed upright in the gravel and got back on the track.

"My pace wasn't as good as yesterday but there were other riders with more problems than me. I gritted my teeth and slowly but surely the guys in front of me got closer. I never gave up and on the last few laps I got past them - I'm delighted.

"I have finished one place higher than Le Mans but the important thing for us today is that if it wasn't for a stupid mistake I would have been running with Melandri, De Puniet and Stoner competing for fourth place."

"Melandri was brilliant, so was Simoncelli and maybe without that small mistake he could have also been fighting for fourth place," commented team principal Fausto Gresini. "It is the kind of performance we have been looking for and even after a difficult weekend we have found a good compromise and finished with a good race."