Damian Cudlin says his aim for his first MotoGP weekend is just to keep chipping away at the gap to the regular riders.
The Australian, who currently races in Germany's IDM Supersport series, was a surprise choice to sit in for the injured Loris Capirossi at Pramac Ducati for this weekend's Japanese Grand Prix.
Despite being totally unfamiliar with MotoGP machinery and having never tried the Motegi track before, Cudlin got down to within 4.5sec of pacesetter Dani Pedrosa in practice today. He was 1.7sec off nearest rival Shinichi Ito's Honda. But Cudlin said his main emotion remained amazement at the situation he was in.
"It was a buzz. I still can't really believe that I'm here," Cudlin said. "I still have to pinch myself every time I get on this bike."
He said day one had just been about learning as much as possible.
"I've never been here before, I've never ridden the bike before and the 45-minute sessions go pretty quickly. We've got an awful lot to learn in a short space of time," said Cudlin. "But I think things are going to plan. We're making improvements step by step, and that's really how I'm trying to approach the weekend. As long as I can keep improving and be closer to the guys by race day, that'll be okay.
"There's a lot to the bike, especially in terms of the range of adjustments. For someone like me who does test riding and development riding, it's pretty cool to have so many things available for you to try.
"At the point that I'm riding at at the moment, and how much I'm still learning the bike and learning the circuit, I don't really want to get carried away and make too many changes right now, because I'll probably get lost. I'd prefer to keep the bike as it is.
"The biggest changes that we've made so far are just handlebars and seating position and stuff, because Loris is obviously a lot smaller than I am. Now I've got settings a bit more close to the way Valentino [Rossi] has his bikes. I think even that's pretty cool..."
Cudlin added that he is not setting any targets or expectations for his results this weekend.
"To be honest, I just want to enjoy the experience as much as I can," he said. "I've dreamed of riding in MotoGP and riding a MotoGP race since I was a little kid. I wasn't sure if it would ever happen or not and I'm still blown away that I'm here.
"If we have a great result, then that will be a bonus. And if not, I'll just take as much away from this experience as I can."