After finishing just 0.059sec from the Estoril podium during the best race of his rookie MotoGP season, and crashing out of the lead last time in Spain, Marco Simoncelli has his sights set on nothing less than a rostrum in this Sunday's return to Portugal.

Simoncelli has been the big improver in early 2011, the Italian making full use of his factory-spec RCV to consistently threaten the top three.

Just over two seconds from the podium on his way to fifth at round one in Qatar, Simoncelli led his first MotoGP race in the wet of round two at Jerez - until a highside on lap twelve (pictured).

The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider may yet to see his speed rewarded, but his confidence has grown leaps and bounds and he now knows he can do battle with the best in MotoGP.

"I still have a bitter taste in my mouth from Jerez," confessed Simoncelli. "I was having a great race and the crash obviously wasn't what I wanted, it was a real shame.

"I know I will have the chance to make up for it though because I know I am fast and have a good feeling with a competitive bike.

"I have made progress and so have the team, we are getting on better and better and I am sure we will soon be celebrating together because everything is in place."

The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider finished just a fraction behind Repsol Honda's Andrea Dovizioso in the 2010 Estoril event, which was the penultimate round of last year.

"I had my best result of last season in Portugal and just missed out on the podium so this time I want to be on it," he declared. "I like the track a lot, I won there in 250cc in 2009 and was on the podium the previous season. I am confident we can have a good weekend."

"Marco was unlucky in Spain but he showed his potential," added team manager Fausto Gresini. "Now he is ready to fight with the best riders in the class and a top result is around the corner. He has made huge progress along with his crew and he's going to be fun to watch."

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