British MotoGP rider Cal Crutchlow has been backed to challenge for top-five finishes this season by the manager of his Tech 3 Yamaha team.
Crutchlow, 26, managed a best finish of fourth in the final race of his debut season last year.
Team manager Herve Poncharal said: "Cal has been outstanding throughout the winter and he is clearly riding with a lot of confidence on the 1,000cc bike.
"We are optimistic he will be consistently challenging the top five."
Crutchlow said: "The team has been working great all through the winter and Yamaha has done a fantastic job with the new YZR-M1.
"I learned a lot in my first season and, although I still have much less experience than most of my rivals, my target is to be much closer to the front.
"I have already shown in testing that the 1000cc bike suits my style better and I am able to set some very competitive lap times.
"The level of competition though is once again unbelievably high, but if I can be close to the factory bikes and be top independent team rider, I will be very happy."
The next round of pre-season testing takes place at Jerez in Spain on 23-25 March, with the first season race in Qatar on 8 April