Valentino Rossi completed an inspiring Yamaha MotoGP return by moving up to third place on the final day of the opening 2013 test.
Denied dry track time by bad weather last November, Sepang effectively marked Rossi's much-anticipated return to the YZR-M1 - a bike the Italian won four of his seven MotoGP titles with, before pursing an ill-fated new challenge at Ducati.
Having achieved just three podiums in the last two seasons - and not a single front row start - one of the first questions Rossi wanted to answer was his own potential as a rider.
The outcome was positive. The Italian set competitive lap times from the start and concluded the opening day in fourth place, less than half-a-second from Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa.
Rossi's remaining fear was that he might drop away due to the rate of improvement by Pedrosa and Jorge Lorenzo as the test went on.
Instead Rossi raised his pace by the same proportion to peg the gap to Pedrosa at 0.4s over all three days. World champion team-mate Lorenzo finished just 0.113s ahead of Rossi, in terms of best lap time.
“I'm very happy,” declared Rossi, speaking inside the Yamaha hospitality area at Sepang. “I cannot expect a better start to this new adventure because the first test for us is so positive.
“I had some doubts. I didn't know how competitive I could be and at the end of these three days I am a lot more happy and relaxed.
“I think we can fight for some important results, because I am fast and competitive.”
As an added bonus, Rossi was able to gain one position on the final day timesheets, moving ahead of Pedrosa's rookie team-mate Marc Marquez for third overall.