Alvaro Bautista almost halved the time difference to the top during last week's second pre-season test at Sepang in Malaysia.
The only RC213V rider using Showa rather than Ohlins suspension, the Spaniard had initially seemed lukewarm at the prospect of continuing with the Japanese technology in 2013.
Bautista was ranked sixth fastest at the end of both tests, but after reducing the gap to the front from 1.402s at the first test to 0.796s at the second he left Malaysia “delighted”.
"Things couldn't have gone much better than they did [on the final day],” added Bautista, who took his first MotoGP
pole and podiums with Gresini last year.
“This has been an extremely useful and positive test for us. Now we know we have the tools to fight at the front but more importantly we have gained an understanding of the changes we need to make in order to make swift improvements to the set-up.
“My feeling with the bike was really good today. There were already some positive signs yesterday and we were able to confirm them today. I can't wait to get back on track because I am having a lot of fun with this bike at the moment."
Fellow Honda satellite team rider Stefan Bradl was one place and 0.231s slower than Bautista.
Team owner Fausto Gresini credited improvements from the Nissin brakes as well as Showa suspension for the Sepang step.
"I can go home feeling happy and satisfied to have seen Alvaro lapping with the top guys and making important progress with the suspension and brakes,” said the Italian.
“Showa have done a great job and together with the team they have a lot more data to work from now to make further improvements in the future.
“Bautista has a better feeling with the bike compared to the test at the start of the month and he is determined to show how good he can be.”
Rookie team-mate Bryan Staring was slowest of all with his FTR-Honda CRT machine.
“Bryan has also made good progress and he adapted even more to MotoGP. He is still struggling a little bit but I am sure he can take another step at the next test and continue to improve,” said Gresini.