Shinya Nakano justified Honda's somewhat controversial decision to hand him a factory spec RC212V for the remainder of the 2008 MotoGP season by charging from twelfth to fourth in Sunday's Czech Republic Grand Prix.

The Honda Gresini rider, who had taken a best finish of eighth prior to Brno, has been given the same specification (valve-spring) motorcycle as Repsol Honda's Dani Pedrosa, in order to 'help develop Honda's 2009 satellite machine'.

However, many believe Honda also wants to see how its 2008 factory bike performs on Bridgestone tyres - compared with the Michelin rubber used by the official team. Some even suggest that HRC is so sure it will switch brands next season that Nakano is being used to provide design data for a 2009 Bridgestone-shod factory RC212V.

Whatever the motives in handing Nakano a factory ride, he certainly proved it wasn't wasted on him; the Japanese veteran finishing third at the end of only his first hour on the machine, during Friday morning free practice at Brno.

A wet qualifying saw Nakano line-up a slightly disappointed eighth on the grid, and first lap contact knocked him back to twelfth, where he remained for the first three of the 22 laps.

But Shinya rose constantly through the field thereafter, setting the third fastest lap of the race - behind only Ducati's Casey Stoner and Yamaha's Valentino Rossi - on lap 15, then snatching fourth from Anthony West on lap 18. Pedrosa finished in 15th position, over one minute behind Nakano.

"We took another step forward with the new bike today although I have to say that it has not been easy to get this result," said Nakano. "We came to Brno without any test data but the team did a great job with the set-up.

"I want to thank Honda and Team Gresini for giving me the chance to ride this bike, which represents a great opportunity for me to improve on the results we've managed so far.

"I'm just disappointed that I lost positions at the start because I made contact with another rider but at the same time satisfied to have recovered and finished the race in fourth - a result I can be pleased with."

"Shinya showed that he could step up the pace on the new bike and I'm sure this fourth place will be a much-needed boost to his confidence," added team manager Fausto Gresini. "Now we have more time available to us to get to know this bike better, with the objective of making further improvements on what has been an excellent debut."

Rookie team-mate Alex de Angelis finished as the top satellite RCV rider, in eighth position, after plummeting from fifth on the grid to 13th at the end of lap one.

"Even though I finished the race as the best of the RC212V satellite riders, today's result isn't too satisfying because we were expecting to finish in the top six," said the San Marinese.

"We weren't too far off that target but this wasn't the race we'd imagined. Unfortunately after the first lap, when I lost several positions, I made several passes but lost the position to other riders who were faster down the straights.

"[On Monday] we'll make the most of the test here at Brno to continue to improve ahead of the San Marino Grand Prix, which is of special importance to me," Alex concluded.

"I want to congratulate Alex because he rode well today - aggressive and fast," praised Gresini.