Fuel consumption problems may have complicated Marco Simoncelli's grand prix debut on a factory specification Honda, at Qatar, but the Italian has shown he is ready for the podium in MotoGP.

That's the view of Simoncelli's team manager Fausto Gresini, after seeing Super Sic finish in fifth place at Losail, on the wrong side of a near race-long battle with official Factory Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso.

Although riding for San Carlo Honda Gresini, HRC has made Simoncelli a full factory rider for his second year in the premier-class, meaning the same machinery as Repsol riders Casey Stoner, Dani Pedrosa and Dovizioso.

That didn't always mean a lot in previous 800cc seasons, when the RC212V was far less competitive, but the 2011 factory Honda is arguably the class of the MotoGP field.

"Qatar provided us with important confirmation that Simoncelli is already capable of fighting with the best riders in the world," said Gresini. "Honda have given us a competitive bike and the work we have done with it over the winter and during the Grand Prix of Qatar was splendid.

"Without the fuel problems related to his size Marco could have been even more incisive, but overall we can't complain because we know what we are capable of and how much progress we have made already.

"Simoncelli is ready to be on the podium and I am sure his objective will be completed soon," insisted Gresini.

Simoncelli will get his next shot at a debut MotoGP podium this Sunday at Jerez in Spain.

The Italian, a best of fourth in his rookie MotoGP season, was only eleventh at Jerez last year but naturally has far higher goals for this weekend.

"I was happy and satisfied with the race in Qatar. It was my best performance in MotoGP, but more than that I was able to run with the best in the category and finish close to the podium positions," he said.

"We have started out on the right foot and that should mean we can do even better at Jerez. We have put the little problems we had in Qatar behind us and we have all improved together as a team since last year but we can't think we have made it yet because it's a long season.

"We know what we have to do to be even more competitive and that is key to the results. Jerez is one of my favourite tracks and I took my first win there in the 125cc class in 2004 so I am confident we can have a good race this weekend."

New team-mate Hiroshi Aoyama, riding a satellite specification bike, was disappointed with his showing in Qatar, when he finished tenth in his first race for Gresini.

"Tenth place in Qatar was not the result we were looking for but I was pleased with the work we did over the course of the weekend together with the team," said Aoyama. "I am sure that things will go much better in Spain this weekend.

"At Losail I didn't get a good start and I only found my pace in the second half of the race. Jerez will be another story because we have the potential now. Jerez is a difficult circuit but I like it a lot.

"My favourite memory there is my win in 2009, in 250, after a hard battle with Bautista and my current team-mate Simoncelli. That was really nice!"



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