Randy de Puniet may have set tongues wagging by putting the new Aprilia CRT MotoGP bike within 0.3sec of Hector Barbera's satellite Ducati best during the Jerez test, but fellow ART rider Mattia Pasini thinks the true difference between the machines is larger.
Pramac racer Barbera, sixth in the official test at Sepang earlier his month, was invited to join the Ducati Test Team for the third and final day in Jerez - Cardion AB's Karel Abraham having done likewise on day two.
No times were released for Abraham, who suffered a fiery fall, but Barbera was reported to have set a best lap time of 1min 40.0sec, while de Puniet's Aspar team reported a 1min 40.30sec for the Frenchman.
The ART had never previously been on track at the same time as a 2012 manufacturer bike and race rider.
Whilst Barbera would surely have gone faster had he spent all three days on track, the fact that de Puniet was also within 0.57sec of the official MotoGP lap record was seen as a further sign that the new privateer CRT bikes could challenge some of the factory-built machines from Honda, Yamaha and Ducati
But former 125 and 250GP winner Pasini, who lapped just under one-second from de Puniet on his Speed Master-run machine, thinks it's still too soon to speak of CRTs battling with the 'full' manufacturer prototypes.
"If we compare our times to Abraham and Barberá, we're not that far off, but I'm convinced that at this point they haven't ridden to their maximum,” the official MotoGP website quotes Pasini as saying.
“We'll have to wait until we are all together and running with all the others to see where we are.
“Anyway I think it's pointless to kid ourselves right now: Our objective for now is to compete against the other CRTs. What happens after that, we'll tackle step by step. In any case, I'm very pleased with how Jerez has gone."
The full 2012 MotoGP grid, comprising twelve manufacturer bikes (six factory, six satellite) and nine CRTs, will be on track together during the third and final official pre-season test at Jerez from March 23-25.
The second official pre-season test, which the ART teams will not be attending, takes place at Sepang next week.
Do you think the leading CRT rider will beat a manufacturer bike when the full grid goes head-to-head at the Jerez test in March? Leave your comments below...