Under pressure after falling in the first two races, MotoGP rookie Aleix Espargaro built on a ninth place at round three in France with eighth at Mugello on Sunday.

The Spaniard's finished the Pramac team's home race just over one-second in front of Marco Simoncelli, who now leads the rookie of the year fight by just seven points from Espargaro.

"I am delighted to reach eighth position today," said Espargaro. "After Le Mans I gained more confidence in my potential and I want to try to improve every race so that I can reduce the gap from the best riders. I like so much to be in the front positions, and I'll do my best to try to improve even more in the next grand prix.

"I've had since Friday a great rhythm on this track, I knew I have to give my best to get a good result in my team's home track. I had a good start and I was in the sixth position after the first turn. Unfortunately in the first lap I had contact with Simoncelli and this made me lose some positions, but I held up my concentration acquiring a good rhythm.

"This is a great result for me. I'm now looking forward for the next race to try to improve my position. I'm very happy on how this season is now going. Too bad for the races in Qatar and Jerez where I got just one point.

"I hope that Mika will return to fight soon for the top positions as he has all the qualities to do it," he added sportingly.

Kallio, who injured his shoulder at Le Mans, failed to finish the race after crashing out.

"What can I say? This hasn't been the best weekend for me," commented the Finn. "The pain I felt in my shoulder and some technical problems I encountered yesterday morning didn't allowed me to get a good position on the grid.

"We solved some problems this morning during warm up and I found a considerable improvement in the handling of the bike. I started very well, I immediately gained three positions in few laps and I was very close to the group that was fighting for eighth place.

"Unfortunately, in turn ten I closed too much my steering and I fell off the bike. I wanted to give my best on this track because it is the Pramac Racing Team home circuit. I will work hard to prove my value in the coming races."