After being just eleventh fastest on the first night of testing at Qatar, Marco Simoncelli vaulted up the timesheets to claim fourth on the final night of pre-season MotoGP action.

The Gresini Honda rider, elevated to official factory status this season, was 0.7sec behind Repsol Honda riders Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa, but only a tenth from the Factory Yamaha of Ben Spies.

Having been denied a podium during his rookie MotoGP season, Simoncelli - fastest of all at the first Sepang test in February - feels ready to battle at the sharp end from this Sunday's season-opener.

"I am happy because I have improved by almost a second on yesterday and that shows that we are working well and things are looking good ahead of Sunday's race," he said.

"We went out feeling very motivated tonight and we found our way again after losing it a little last night. I have found some interesting things with the setting and now we are all feeling more confident.

"Whenever I was with other riders out there I was able to match them and that is a good sign that we have got the right pace at this circuit.

"The two fastest guys are obviously looking very strong but I am sure we can close the gap on Thursday in practice and be up there fighting with the best of them come Sunday."

New team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama had been a surprise third fastest on his satellite spec bike during the opening night. The Japanese didn't improve on Monday, when he was only tenth fastest, but is confident ahead of his Gresini race debut.

"Overall I am happy with this last test here in Qatar and with our chances on Sunday," he said. "We tried some different settings tonight and that was our main focus. I was missing a little off my lap time but to be honest that wasn't what we were looking for.

"At the end of the session we dialled in the setting I liked the best and I tried to improve on my excellent lap time from yesterday but with the lower track temperature I wasn't able to do so.

"I'm still confident though and we have yesterday's lap time as a marker of what we are capable of. Overall it leaves me sixth fastest and only a few tenths off third."

First free practice for the Qatar Grand Prix takes place on Thursday evening.



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