Valentino Rossi built on his competitive Yamaha return by clipping a further half-second from his best time on day two of MotoGP testing at Sepang.
That kept the Italian fourth overall, with Dani Pedrosa (Honda), Jorge Lorenzo (Yamaha) and Marc Marquez (Honda) once again in front.
Rossi remained just under 0.5s from Pedrosa, but felt he lost the chance to at least match star rookie Marquez (+0.254s) after a mistake at the hairpin.
On the positive side, Rossi stated that his average time had improved by more than the half-second seen on the best lap ranking.
Rossi's fastest Wednesday lap was a 2m 1.038s, just shy of his 2m 0s target. Rossi's quickest Sepang lap in testing for Ducati was a 2m 0.824s, last year, while he recorded a 2m 0.271s on the 800cc Yamaha in 2010.
“I am happy because I improved today. This is a great feeling!” smiled Rossi, who often struggled to make successive gains during two tough seasons at Ducati.
“I improved half a second with the new tyre and now the lap time starts to be quite interesting.
“More importantly I improved my rhythm by more than half a second. Today I was able to run constantly in the low 2m 1s. This is so important.
“There remains a small regret because I wanted to do a 2m 0s but unfortunately before the rain I did a mistake in the hairpin. If not, I could stay more or less with the lap time of Marquez.
“But anyway, without the rain [at 4pm], I would expect Pedrosa, Lorenzo and Marquez to also improve.
“They are very strong,” he said of the three riders ahead of him. “I can see Lorenzo from close and he is able to do the lap time from the first moment.
“Lorenzo has a great feeling with the bike - like Pedrosa and also Marquez, Marquez maybe a little bit less.
“But Marquez is scary because he has the most potential to improve.