d'Antin Ducati endured a mixed three-day test session at Sepang, with both Neil Hodgson and Ruben Xaus improving their laps times consistently - but suffering persistent technical problems in the process.

"I am obviously a bit annoyed because we have suffered a lot of setbacks but we have to remain positive because the times are coming fairly easily and today I set a lap which was just two tenths off Loris' fastest lap from the Grand Prix," said Hodgson who set a 2mins 4.674secs best. "Now we are heading to Phillip Island and I'm looking forward to it because I know the circuit well and that should help me."

Team-mate Xaus complete just 88 laps over the three days due to the technical woes, which also resulted in the Spaniard falling without harm from his Desmosedici.

"The fact that I wasn't able to put any consistent rhythm together probably affected my concentration and I know for sure that I could have set better times, but we can't lose heart because we still have a lot of work ahead of us and now we are going to one of my favourite circuits," said Ruben. "I know Phillip Island well because we raced there with the Superbikes so I hope things will go much better."

For team principal Luis d-Antin, his team's second test with Ducatis marked the end of the honeymoon period and he knows they must overcome the technical issues as soon as possible.

"Obviously this is the time for the problems to emerge and the truth is that in Malaysia we have been dogged by them from start to finish, but having said that both Neil and Ruben have demonstrated their strength and given us reason to expect big things from them this year," he said.

"Now we have to analyse all the information that they have given us during these tests and keep working hard next week in Australia where I hope things will improve. The fact that we won't have a second bike available until the end of next month has also been an added handicap and that could prove to be the case again at Phillip Island," added the Spaniard.

Sepang test - leading day three times:

1. Nicky Hayden USA Repsol Honda 2min 2.041secs
2. Max Biaggi ITA Camel Honda 2min 2.10secs
3. Sete Gibernau SPA Telefonica Movistar Honda 2min 2.49secs
4. Colin Edwards USA Telefonica Movistar Honda 2min 2.59secs
5. Valentino Rossi ITA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha 2mins 2.74secs
6. Makoto Tamada JPN Camel Honda 2min 2.962secs
7. Carlos Checa SPA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha 2mins 3.10secs
8. Loris Capirossi ITA Ducati Marlboro 2mins 3.350secs
9. Troy Bayliss ITA Ducati Marlboro 2mins 3.554secs
10. Alex Barros BRA Repsol Honda 2min 3.558secs
11. Shinya Nakano JPN Kawasaki Racing Team 2mins 4.625secs
12. Neil Hodgson GBR d'Antin Ducati 2min 4.674secs
13. Marco Melandri ITA Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 2mins 4.75secs
14. Alex Hofmann GER Kawasaki Racing Team 2mins 4.817secs
15. Ruben Xaus SPA d'Antin Ducati 2min 4.929secs
16. Norick Abe JPN Fortuna Gauloises Tech 3 2mins 5.04secs
17. Shane Byrne GBR Aprilia Racing 2min 5.18secs
18. Jeremy McWilliams GBR Aprilia Racing 2min 6.52secs

Comparative lap times:

Previous best Sepang test laps:
Honda: Max Biaggi ITA Camel Honda 2min 2.585secs (22/1/2004)
Yamaha: Valentino Rossi ITA Gauloises Fortuna Yamaha 2mins 2.75secs (26/1/2004)
Suzuki: John Hopkins USA Suzuki Grand Prix 2mins 3.9secs (23/1/2004)
Kawasaki: Shinya Nakano JPN Kawasaki Racing Team 2mins 4.38secs (21/1/2004)

Malaysian Grand Prix (12/10/2003):
Pole position: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 2min 2.48secs
Fastest lap: Valentino Rossi ITA Repsol Honda 2min 3.822secs

Fastest Yamaha lap: Carlos Checa SPA Fortuna Yamaha 2min 4.193secs
Fastest Ducati lap: Loris Capirossi ITA Ducati Marlboro 2min 4.486secs
Fastest Aprilia lap: Colin Edwards USA Alice Aprilia 2min 5.399secs
Fastest Suzuki lap: Kenny Roberts USA Suzuki Grand Prix 2min 6.482secs
Fastest Kawasaki lap: Andrew Pitt AUS Kawasaki Racing Team 2min 6.886secs

For more pictures - updated daily - from Sepang, click on the "Latest Pictures" link in the MotoGP channel...