Randy de Puniet was confirmed as the clear standard-bearer for the new 'Claiming Rule Team' privateer MotoGP class during the final pre-season test at Jerez.

The new Power Electronics Aspar rider had been expected to head the CRT challenge after previously posting unofficial lap times comparable to satellite MotoGP machines on his Superbike-based Aprilia ART machine.

But the Jerez test marked the first time all 21 MotoGP race riders - including the nine CRTs - had been on track together, and with official timing.

de Puniet promptly indicated that the previous reports were correct by outpacing the satellite Ducatis of Hector Barbera and Karel Abraham on his way to eleventh place on day one.

Day two was effectively a washout, and de Puniet then finished the pre-season in 13th place on Sunday, as the satellite GP12s just edged back ahead of him. de Puniet's best lap was 1.8sec from Honda's Casey Stoner, but both Barbera and Abraham were within 0.31sec.

The Frenchman, a MotoGP podium finisher for Kawasaki and LCR Honda, thus looks capable of fighting with some of the much more expensive satellite manufacturer machines in the Qatar season opener on April 8.

"I am satisfied with the test, we have been fast and at the front of the CRT field, not that far off the factory guys," said de Puniet. "Our pace is good and I think we're ready for the start of the season.

"I am really happy with the potential of the bike and I think we can perform to a high level on it this season. It is consistent and ready to run race distance."

CRT bikes are allowed 3 litres more fuel (race) and six more engine changes (season) relative to the manufacturer machines, but can have their engines and gearbox 'claimed' for 20,000 euros and must not be 'entered' by or 'represent' an MSMA manufacturer.

Some of the MotoGP manufacturers feel the Aprilia is not within the spirit of the CRT rules, being created by a major factory, but there is little they can now do about it since retracting CRT status mid-season would require majority agreement from the GP Commission.

While de Puniet looks set to blur the distinction between the MotoGP categories, he may be something of a lone challenger in the early rounds at least. The next best CRT at Jerez, team-mate Aleix Espargaro, being over one-second slower.

"The good thing is that I am amongst the fastest CRT riders, but we only have to look at my team-mate Randy to see that I can still go faster," admitted the Spaniard.

Colin Edwards, the most highly qualified of the CRT riders with twelve MotoGP podiums, was only 17th fastest and nearly 1.5sec from de Puniet.

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