Just two weeks after limping home in eleventh place at Qatar, Dani Pedrosa saved Honda honour with a 'fantastic' third in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix at the Honda-owned Motegi circuit.
Starting just eleventh on the grid and still suffering after last month's knee and forearm surgery, Pedrosa rocketed up to second position behind only Valentino Rossi into turn one.
The Spaniard thought it unlikely that he'd be able to run at the front for long, but surprised himself by being no lower than third for the remainder of the race - and briefly overtaking Rossi for second on lap 18 of 24.
“I'm very happy with this result,” said Dani. “I've had injury problems for a long time - since last October - and so to be on the podium in the second race of the season is fantastic for me, and really we didn't expect this so soon.
“I got a good start - the start was really the key part of my race - and I was able to get away with the front group. I couldn't really believe it when I stayed with them because I was expecting to drop back after maybe one or two laps. But then it was lap five or six and I was still there and I was thinking, 'this is unbelievable',” he added.
Pedrosa eventually finished 3.8sec behind winner Jorge Lorenzo, compared with 48.526sec at Qatar.
“In the end I was near the front for the whole race, had a good battle for second, and finished on the podium so this is great,” he declared. “We still have to sort out some issues on the machine, but it's a very positive result going in to the Jerez, and I'd like to say big thanks to the team and the fans.”
Team-mate Andrea Dovizioso was pipped for fourth place on the second-to-last lap by Qatar winner Casey Stoner, but was pleased with his pace after a difficult, rain-affected weekend that saw yesterday's qualifying session cancelled due to heavy rain.
“I'm pretty happy after this race because, considering that we struggled a lot during all the practice sessions, we were able to stay near the front for 24 laps,” said Dovi, after his second race as a factory Honda rider.
“I was pushing really hard for a podium finish for the whole race but in the end I couldn't make it. It was a tough race and this is a very demanding track, with many hard braking zones so we struggled a lot physically to achieve this result.”
The Italian also paid tribute to the performance of Pedrosa.