It's been a long time since a satellite rider led a dry MotoGP test, but that's exactly what Marco Simoncelli managed on the final day of the first 2011 test at Sepang on Thursday.

Admittedly, Simoncelli is now classed as an official HRC rider, although he is still housed within the satellite San Carlo Honda Gresini team.

Simoncelli's achievement was all the more impressive given that, one year ago, he was left in last place during both days of testing at the same Malaysian track, which included a trip to hospital for precautionary checks after a crash.

Now preparing to start his second season in MotoGP, the Italian had been fourth and fifth fastest on the first two days, but took control of day three due to a 2min 0.757sec flyer set on only his second lap.

That was enough to stay at the head of the 20-rider timesheet by 6pm, although new Repsol Honda rider Casey Stoner got within 0.054sec late in the day. Yamaha's reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo was just 0.088sec from Simoncelli in third.

"At the last test in Valencia my feeling with the new bike was good. So I expected to be fast, but maybe not the fastest!" said Simoncelli, who took a best finish of fourth during his rookie premier-class season.

"If we consider that this is not my favourite track I have to be more than happy. I was very consistent yesterday and this morning I managed to make this extraordinary time.

"Then I did the race simulation, during which I have been constant and in the end I got exhausted, as in the race.

"Well, I'm glad to have gone 360 degrees. The team worked perfectly with the new team members. Everything has turned to perfection. We all improved, I, for one, and the guys working on the bike and I am convinced that this year we will be there.

"Of course, this is the first test and I don't want to get too hyped up, so we must continue to work with our feet firmly on the ground."

Team manager Fausto Gresini couldn't hide his delight at the result.

"It's been a nice shot to the heart. I feel euphoric!" said the former racer. "Simoncelli deserves everything because during the winter he has done good preparation and is even more determined.

"Of course we thank Honda because they have made available an extraordinary machine, and all the guys who have worked hard and believed in this project.

"It is clear that we must stay calm and continue to work, but today is a wonderful day and I want to enjoy it!"

Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner had been fastest on days one and two, but Simoncelli's Thursday lap was the best of the week.

Pedrosa was sixth on Thursday, while seven time MotoGP champion and new Ducati rider Valentino Rossi was tenth, 1.085sec from Simoncelli.

The second of the three 2011 pre-season tests will be held back at Sepang from February 22-24.



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