Marco Melandri, who has languished at the tail end of the timesheets since his reluctant MotoGP return with Aprilia, finally found some feeling with his RS-GP on Friday in Argentina.

The Italian was 19th and 24th in the two sessions, out of 25 riders, but still felt clear progress had been made.

"For the first time I had a decent session," said Melandri, despite an early fall. "The team did a great job trying some different ideas and implementing some set-ups that we had never tried before, catering to my needs, and I found a bike that I was able to ride better.

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"Naturally there is still a lot of work to do but it is an improvement. The track conditions will change gradually as it gets more rubberised, so we'll have to wait until tomorrow."

Aprilia Racing boss Romano Albesiano added: "Even with the asphalt situation we had Marco made some encouraging progress in terms of his general riding feeling."

Team-mate Alvaro Bautista was 22nd, but less than 0.1s quicker than Melandri.

"The track was very hungry today and it ate up all the tyres," Alvaro Bautista. "Already from this morning we had to use two sets of tyres and in the afternoon I went out with a used tyre. By the end I really didn't have any rubber left to try and improve on my time.

"Tomorrow we'll have to work hard to improve our grip anyway. But I also think that a better asphalt grip situation will be a great help since such poor traction particularly penalises us."