HRC's three-day test at Phillip Island ended today with the Honda engineers and rider's happy with the results and data gathered, despite a thunder storm interrupting the proceedings.

The storm left the track wet for a short period, restricting dry running time but the teams were able to dedicate some of their time on valuable wet weather settings for the new RCV.

Fastest of all was unsurprisingly Valentino Rossi, but the world champion was unable to better his previous best lap time, an unofficial record of 1min 31.6secs, due to the weather and so had to settle for a 1min 32.2secs fastest time today. The Repsol rider worked predominantly on suspension settings over 52 laps.

"Basically a good three days at Phillip Island working on the new bike and finding the solutions for the best set-ups," summed-up Rossi. "The weather was not so good this morning and it was not possible to make the best time. The number of laps was down as I was in and out of the box making many changes and adjustments.

"HRC have worked very well to develop the bike and the technicians will go back to Japan with a huge amount of data," added the Italian. "I'm very happy we decided to test in Sepang and Australia because I hear the weather in Europe has not so good. We did the right choice. I now go back to London and get some rest. I'm looking forward to Catalunya [IRTA test] which will be a very important test because for the first time we are all together with the new entry."

Second fastest today was Nicky Hayden, who made a mammoth improvement on the final day to knock a second off his previous best, helped partly by following his team-mate Rossi [see separate story]. Hayden's best lap was a 1min 32.47secs circulation - just 0.27secs off Valentino and a mere two tenths off the Italians lap record set at last years Grand Prix.

"Today was good. The weather was kinda' iffy this mornin' and I went out and did about 20 laps in the damp which was good experience," began Hayden. "The bike felt good and I was real comfortable. In the afternoon we did some longer runs looking at the tyres."

Hayden now heads back to the States for the Daytona bike week, where this year he'll be an interested observer rather than a competitor.

"I'm pretty excited about goin' home now and getting to Daytona even though I don't get to race there," he explained. "I've been goin' to Bike Week since I was a little kid so for me it's a real fun week. Then over to Catalunya in March for the next tests. I like the track and they'll be a lotta riders there. Should be interesting."

The rain shower was not a totally negative event for the Pramac Honda team. Bridgestone test rider Shinichi Itoh took his RC211V out to test a range of wet tyres and trimmed 0.1secs off his previous best.

"The day was not lost to the weather, we did get the chance to test some of the rain tyres Bridgestone had brought with them," confirmed the HRC favourite. "The performance was encouraging, like most of what we have done here. I go home for a rest now, it's been hard work on the last two tests. In all we have tried some 300 tyres in recent testing. That will give Bridgestone enough data to work with."

Pramac race rider Makoto Tamada worked on finding the best machine and suspension settings for the wet conditions, data that will be invaluable to him at some point during his MotoGP debut season. Both riders embarked on race distance simulation test but conditions brought that to an end before the riders had completed the distance.

"We finished the test and I'm quite happy with the work we have done. I feel a lot more comfortable on the bike now and the tyre testing has gone very well," said Makoto, who exactly matched his quickest time from yesterday. "It's a pity about the weather today, it didn't allow me to try for a faster time than yesterday. We will see how we go at Catalunya next month."

The Honda teams will now take a two week break before recommencing testing at the IRTA test at the Montmelo circuit, close to Barcelona, on March 15 - 16.

Honda Phillip Island test - day 3:

1. Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 1min 32.2secs
2. Nicky Hayden USA Repsol Honda 1min 32.47secs
3. Shinichi Itoh JPN Pramac Honda 1min 32.9secs
4. Makoto Tamada JPN Pramac Honda 1min 33.3secs

Comparative lap times - 2002 Australian Grand Prix:

Pole Position: Jeremy McWilliams Proton Team KR 1min 31.919secsFastest lap: Valentino Rossi Repsol Honda 1min 32.233secs