Bradley Smith gave British fans plenty of cause for optimism by setting the pace in first practice for the Japanese Moto2 Grand Prix.
In the fortnight since Aragon, Smith has secured his long term GP future by signing a three year extension with the Tech3 team, ensuring he will graduate to the premier class in 2013, and the Briton certainly seemed full of confidence early on.
Unsurprisingly, the two championship rivals got straight down to business when the pitlane opened with Marc Marquez going quickest on his second timed lap. Within five minutes, Stefan Bradl, leader by six points, had usurped him at the top before Dominique Aegerter jumped in front of the pair of them.
Andrea Iannone then took over, lowering the target time by another tenth of a second before Smith set a new benchmark, clocking laps of 1:54.025 and 1:53.806 on consecutive laps.
That would go unbeaten despite numerous attempts from the Italian, with the third sector causing him particular difficulty. Thomas Luthi was only a tenth off the pace in third while Esteve Rabat also started strongly in fourth.
This meant Stefan Bradl had to settle for fifth although he will have taken some comfort from finishing ahead of ninth-placed Marquez who doesn't appear to have the same advantage he enjoyed two weeks ago.
Simone Corsi was just over three tenths off the pace in sixth ahead of Aegerter who faded to seventh. The Swiss rider finished just ahead of home favourite Yuki Takahashi in eighth with Mika Kallio completing the top ten behind Marquez.
Marc VDS teammate Scott Redding took a trip through the gravel on his way to 14th while Yonny Hernandez also had an excursion, although he was forced to remount his bike after a fall at turn 11.