Randy de Puniet proved that his private testing form on the Aspar-run Aprilia CRT bike was no bluff by outpacing two of the satellite bikes during Friday's start to the official Jerez test.
The Frenchman, a podium finisher with manufacturer machinery in MotoGP, set a best lap time 1.8sec behind Honda's Casey Stoner for eleventh out of the 21 race riders. Satellite Ducati riders Hector Barbera and Karel Abraham were 0.4sec and 0.6sec slower.
de Puniet's detractors will point out that he has had more (private) track time at Jerez and is therefore likely to lose ground as the official test progresses. de Puniet and Aspar will be out to prove them wrong.
de Puniet's best unofficial lap time in private Jerez tests is 0.7sec faster than he set on Friday.
"I am really happy with the way this first day has gone here at Jerez,” said de Puniet. “Despite a few technical problems and a crash halfway through the day we have been working on the right lines and the lap times are really good.
“The crash put me out of action for a while because the bike was badly damaged but the team did a brilliant job to set the other bike up and I was able to lap eleventh fastest, ahead of some factory riders.
“I don't think we could expect much more from this first day of testing. It is satisfying to see the hard work we have done over the winter paying off and now that we are all on track together we can check our level. I enjoyed riding the bike and I hope to continue like this tomorrow.
“We did some work on the front forks today, as well as electronics and gearbox settings."
The next best CRT rider was Power Electronics team-mate Aleix Espargaro in 14th. The Spaniard admitted it was tough to see de Puniet 1.2sec ahead of him on the timesheets and won't want to be reminded that his time was also slower than the best Moto2 lap earlier this week.
“My team-mate was very fast today but I knew that would be the case because he has been excellent all pre-season,” he said. “On one hand it's tough to take seeing him going so well but on the other it is a huge motivation because we're on the same bike. It means that if we keep working like we are now we can be up there too."
The top non-Aprilia CRT bike was the Suter-BMW of Colin Edwards, who lapped 1.56sec slower than de Puniet. Testing continues on Saturday and concludes on Sunday.
The nine privateer CRT entries will be allowed three litres more fuel per-race and double the amount of engine changes this season, relative to the manufacturer bikes (factory or satellite).