Three years after its last competitive MotoGP laps, Suzuki made a popular return to grand prix racing at Valencia on Friday.

Competing as a wild-card entry ahead of a full two-rider campaign in 2015, development rider Randy de Puniet improved on the new GSX-RR's best testing lap by half a second. The Frenchman was also within 1.345s of Honda's practice leader and reigning world champion Marc Marquez.

That was the good news.

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The bad news was that de Puniet, taking part in his first race for a year, was only 18th out of the 25 riders in FP2, lacked almost 20km/h in top speed and pulled off in a cloud of smoke at the end of the afternoon session (pictured).

"I'm really happy to be back at a grand prix," said de Puniet. "It was not so bad today. We are only 1.3 [seconds] away from first position and that's OK for our first day. I had a technical problem at the end otherwise I think I could have improved the lap time a little bit more.

"The conditions were great this morning but it was a bit cloudier and windier this afternoon. Still, we are in November so it is not bad! I'm satisfied. We need to make a few adjustments because I struggled with the hard rear tyre and we'll discuss what direction we will take for the race. It is hard to work so fast and with only 45 minutes to make it happen.

"I liked being out on the track at a race after one year and I don't feel like I've missed a season; this is good and I'm ready to fight to put the bike on the best place on the grid and then in the best position during the race.

"We are faster here today than we were at the test [last month] and every session I feel more confident. I think if we all give the maximum then we can be happy and this is what we want."

Team manager Davide Brivio, absent from an official MotoGP race role since leaving Yamaha at the end of 2010, said the day had been 'full of emotion' - and no, it wasn't just smoke in his eyes.

"Today was full of emotion. When we started the bike this morning it felt special to be back in a race environment.

"We had a problem at the end but we are not so far [from the fastest times]. The performance was quite good considering that we haven't raced for a long time. To come here for the last GP - when everybody else has had so much track time and experience - is not so easy but we are doing OK."

As a wild-card entry Suzuki is allowed three engines, meaning de Puniet should have both GSX-RRs up and running again on Saturday morning.

de Puniet will race in WSBK with Crescent Suzuki next season, the GSX-RRs being handed to 2015 race riders Aleix Espargaro and Maverick Vinales for testing on Monday.