Marco Melandri posted the second best time on a rain-hit opening night of testing in Qatar as he began to put a nightmare winter behind him.
Riding the Hayate bike, which is a factory Kawasaki ZX-RR simply renamed, Melandri posted a best time of 2.00867 to finish just 0.150s behind American Nicky Hayden.
Early rain though meant lap times were five seconds off normal race pace as some sections of track failed to dry quickly enough for anybody to break the two-minute barrier.
Not surprisingly given his recent exile from MotoGP, Melandri completed the most laps as he desperately tries to recover lost ground on the prototype Kawasaki.
It was only ten days ago that the former world 250 champion learned Kawasaki would test in the Middle East having agreed to run a one-rider squad in 2009.
That decision was taken, which will see the team renamed Hayate, despite Kawasaki announcing in early January that it would not compete in this year’s MotoGP world championship.
Melandri, who thought he would be left out in the cold by Kawasaki’s shock withdrawal, said he was happy with the performance of the Hayate.
The new bike features a completely revised chassis and engine and was built based on feedback given by Melandri and John Hopkins in tests in Valencia and Phillip Island last November.
“It is completely different from last year’s bike, “said Melandri. “The feeling of the engine is more or less the same but the chassis is much better and it is completely different, it is night and day difference.
"Overall the feeling is really good. I only did a few laps but I can see they have been working really hard during the winter.”