Toni Elias will head for his winter holiday a happy man after making substantial progress during the second and final day of the Jerez test.
After a season on a satellite Ducati, Elias returns to Honda Gresini as a factory supported RCV rider for 2009, although the Spaniard - like team-mate Alex de Angelis - has been using an ex-Shinya Nakano valve-spring '08 factory machine for post-season testing.
Having been eighth fastest on day one of the Spanish test, Elias improved by 1.231sec on day two to claim fourth position out of the 14 riders with a best lap just over one-second from Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa, but just 0.022sec from third fastest Jorge Lorenzo.
Elias will made his debut on a 2009 (pneumatic) factory Honda during the first test of next year, at Sepang from February 5-7.
"I'm very happy to be back in the Gresini team and back on a Honda," said Toni. "We started out yesterday working step by step because I want to work in a calm, logical manner to avoid mistakes. We worked mostly on the rear end, because I have had some traction problems. We tested some different set-up solutions, focusing on adapting the bike to the new Bridgestone tyres.
"I'm happy because today we found a good compromise between bike set-up and the tyres and I also has a better feeling with the rear tyre. My lap times were faster and I felt more comfortable. Of course, we need to keep working but I think we did a very good job here, preparing for the Sepang tests when we will get the bike that we will use during the 2009 season," he added.
2008 rookie de Angelis was also impressive, improving his best lap time by almost one second to finish the test 0.038sec and one place behind Elias.
"It was a very important test session. We worked mainly on the set-up, studying the behaviour of the new Bridgestone tyres. With the new tyre regulation it's very important to adapt the bike to the tyres and not vice versa as was the case before," said the San Marinese of the new single tyre rule. "Of course, we will keep working on the settings to find the best set-up that will allow us to get the maximum out of the bike."
Although de Angelis will remain a satellite rider next season, it seems that the customer spec RC212Vs may now get pneumatic-valve engines next year after all. Either way, de Angelis has already felt a clear improvement with the ex-Nakano bike.
"I have to say that the first impressions are positive. I like this bike - both the engine and the chassis are better, so I have a better feeling than with the bike I used last season," he said. "This bike is also better for my size. Today we made a big step forward. We worked on chassis geometry and I could go quite fast, ending up very close to the third fastest guy.
"Since Valencia I'm working with a new crew chief - Antonio Jimenez, who worked with Nakano last year - and I'm very happy with this new arrangement," concluded Alex, who took a best finish of fourth this year.