The final day of 2013 MotoGP pre-season testing ended with a twist when Cal Crutchlow put his satellite Tech 3 Yamaha ahead of the factory favourites at Jerez.
Rain interrupted all three days in Spain, with rain on the final morning making Valentino Rossi's dry Sunday lap time look invincible.
Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa promptly packed up and left, but weather conditions improved in the afternoon, with slicks tyres possible for the final few hours - when Crutchlow delivered a speedy 1m 39.511.
That pipped Rossi's day two best by 0.014s and put Crutchlow 0.224s clear at the top of the final Monday timesheets, with Rossi again second for the Factory Yamaha team.
“We did some decent lap times and in the end we ran quite consistently, I was pleased,” said Crutchlow. “I feel good. It's disappointing to manage no more than 70 dry laps over three days, but to be at this pace is good and I think everybody is in a similar boat.
“I think it is very difficult to beat the Hondas of Dani [Pedrosa] and Marc [Márquez] at the moment. I think their package is stronger. We know Dani is obviously very confident because he went home today - so he is happy with the bike! We are still working very hard with the Yamaha, but it's going to be a big battle in Qatar.”
Looking towards the first race, Crutchlow added: “It has been a positive pre-season and I think I have shown I have made another big improvement for this year. This result gives me a lot of confidence going to Qatar but my goal will be to finish in the top six and get some early momentum like I did last season. It is going to be a very exciting season.”
Crutchlow joins Pedrosa (Sepang I) and Factory Yamaha's reigning champion Jorge Lorenzo (Sepang II) in setting the fastest overall lap in an official 2013 test, while the end-of-day honours have been divided: Pedrosa (5 days), Lorenzo (2), Valentino Rossi (1) and Crutchlow (1).
Lorenzo was fourth on Monday, and third overall, as both he and Rossi tried a new chassis, but it was his race simulation
that caught the most attention.
Third on the final day was LCR Honda's Stefan Bradl, who finished fifth overall just behind Pedrosa, while fellow RC213V rider Álvaro Bautista also missed the last day due to hand and knee injuries. Pedrosa's rookie team-mate Marc Marquez clocked the fifth best Monday time and sixth overall (+0.619s).
While Marquez may have hoped for better after sweeping all three days at the private Honda/Yamaha Austin test, Ducati received some welcome encouragement by filling places sixth to tenth on Monday.
Fastest of the closely matched Desmosedici riders was rookie Andrea Iannone (+0.820s), followed by factory team-mates Nicky Hayden (+0.859s) and Andrea Dovizioso (+1.005s), then test rider Michele Pirro (+1.370s).
The absent Bautista was tenth overall for Go&Fun Honda Gresini, just ahead of Pirro, with Randy de Puniet the leading CRT rider in twelfth (+1.460s) for Aspar Aprilia.
Crutchlow's rookie team-mate Bradley Smith, who had hoped for much needed dry track time, finished the test in 13th overall (+1.6s), just ahead of de Puniet's team-mate Aleix Esaprgaro.
Héctor Barberá led the Avintia Blusens charge from 15th spot, but it was a rather frustrating test as new FTR parts arrived at the circuit late due to the ongoing snow-caused travel chaos in the United Kingdom.
16th was NGM Mobile Forward Racing's Claudio Corti from Came IodaRacing Project's Danilo Petrucci, evaluating his 2013 chassis for the first time. Ben Spies - still recovering from shoulder injuries in last year's Malaysian Grand Prix - joined Pedrosa and Bautista in skipping the final day and finished 18th overall.
Avintia's Hiroshi Aoyama racked up plenty of wet weather running (his first on the FTR) en route to 19th position, ahead of Czech rookie Lukáš Pešek's Ioda and Cardion AB Motoracing's Karel Abraham, who has converted from a prototype to a CRT chassis for the 2013 season.
This week's 25-bike field was completed by PBM's Yonny Hernández, Gresini's Bryan Staring, Forward's Colin Edwards – who today focused on electronics work – and Michael Laverty. The former British Superbike rider continued to dial in the brand new PBM bike, but on Monday saw his agenda briefly interrupted by having to pull over with a locked up rear brake.
At the end of this year's pre-season period the pack is separated by 2.9 seconds, one second closer than last year's margin. The top ten also bunched up, with the 2012 gap of 1.3s reduced to 1.1s.
Opening practice for the Qatar Grand Prix takes place at the Losail Circuit on the evening of Thursday April 4.