A small crash in morning practice aside, Marco Simoncelli enjoyed an encouraging first day at the Czech Republic MotoGP, setting the third fastest time in both sessions.

The San Carlo Honda Gresini rider's best lap proved a sizeable 0.682sec slower than pace setter Dani Pedrosa - the rider Simoncelli clashed with at Le Mans - but the Italian is focussing on his own performance.

"I am happy with the two sessions today because we have come back from the holidays immediately on the pace," he began. "Pedrosa's speed is impressive but right now the priority for me is to improve my confidence with the bike and not think about him.

"We are working on my position on the bike and the general set-up and I am sure we can have a great weekend. We need to improve on corner entry to give me more confidence on the brakes and try to create a bike that allows me to hold my line through the corner.

"Overall I am feeling confident and with this small adjustment we can only improve."

Team principal Fausto Gresini confirmed the first event after the summer break had got off to a solid start.

"Third place with a good feeling and good pace is positive although obviously we need to work more on giving Marco a set-up that allows him to hold his line better," he said. "Overall the team has done a good job and Marco looks calm. We are confident we are on the right track."

Team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama, injured last year, rode the Czech circuit for the first time on a MotoGP bike on Friday and was satisfied with his performance, despite being just 16th out of the 18 riders.

"I am happy to be back on track here at Brno after the summer break. I have found a positive feeling with the bike even though this is the first time I have ridden it at this circuit," he said.

"The team is working well and I am sure we can improve our position tomorrow. My confidence with the bike is good and I think we should easily move up the order with more time on track."

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