Acting as a stand-in for regular Winston Ten Kate Honda rider Karl Muggeridge, Giovanni Bussei had his first ride on the CBR1000RR in morning practice at Valencia on Friday, before going on to set the 25th fastest time out of 33 entrants in first qualifying.

It marked the Italian rider's first outing since the final race of 2005, and he spent the day easing himself back up to full racing speed.

"I was very happy when I got the offer to ride, because I was at home without a ride," the Italian told Radio. "I was waiting for something good and had promised myself that I wouldn't just take any ride. This is a good opportunity - but it's not easy!

"The bike is ok, it's me that needs to improve. I haven't ridden a bike for eight months - whereas 15 days ago everybody else had a test here! - but anyway this afternoon was not so bad, I'm 1.5seconds from the fastest Honda, so we'll see what happens tomorrow and most importantly on Sunday."

Part of the reason the experienced Bussei was without a 2006 ride was due to injuries sustained in the huge first turn accident at the 2005 Magny Cours season finale (middle pic) - and the Italian is planning a surprise switch to Supermoto.

"The accident was not so good. I had a big impact on my head and broke my arm and wrist. Now I'm starting to feel better," he explained. "I have plans with my sponsor Unionbike, from Milano, to make a little team in the Supermoto World Championship. I've never raced Supermoto before, just training, but in March I thought 'I want to do something', so I called my sponsor and he said 'ok, why don't we do it'. Next weekend I'll have the first race."

Meanwhile, it's nice to think that at least part of the reason Bussei was selected for the stand-in ride by Ten Kate was due to his selfless actions at Imola 2004 - when he stopped to pick up fallen Ten Kate rider Chris Vermeulen, then a championship contender, after he suffered a mechanical failure on the parade lap.

Bussei says he would have done the same for any rider at the time, but - having subsequently been given a harsh ride-through penalty for his actions, ruining his race and any hopes of a podium finish - Giovanni admitted that, due to the unexpectedly tough penalty, he probably wouldn't do it again.

"I am friends with Chris but nothing special - we weren't close friends before (Imola) or anything - I just did what I would do for anybody, but I wouldn't do it again because they 'kill' you for it!" he smiled. "I just did what I felt was right at the time, but then I probably lost the chance of a podium because of it - I set the second fastest lap of the race - it could have been one of the best races of my life.

"Maybe I'm here because of (Imola 2004) maybe not," he mused. "I'm certainly happy to be here and thank Ten Kate for the opportunity, but I hope I won't have to thank them as such because I hope to do a good job and make them happy to have chosen me. I prefer to think of it that way," he concluded.

"Giovanni is taking it step-by-step, and I am really pleased that he is approaching it, having been off a bike since Magny Cours last year," added team manager Ronald Ten Kate at the end of day one. "That's a long time to be out, but he is doing well so far, constantly improving. If it is dry again tomorrow he will improve quite a bit, I'm sure of it."