James Toseland emerged on top of one of the most intense multi-rider battles of the 800cc MotoGP era, as he claimed a career-best equalling sixth in Saturday's Dutch TT at Assen.
The seven-rider fight raged for most of the 26 lap race, with Toseland using a new set-up inspired by Fiat Yamaha Team director Masahiko Nakajima to reach the head of the pack by lap 8.
The Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider exchanged positions constantly with the likes of Mika Kallio, Loris Capirossi and Nicky Hayden - but was back in sixth with two laps to go.
“It was an incredible battle for most of the race and I knew I wasn't much stronger than the rest and I knew if I got to the front that it wasn't going to be a case of me pulling away,” said Toseland. “I knew once I was at the front of the bunch that it would be a case of protecting it. That's exactly what I did but it was nearly all spoiled on the last lap.”
Kallio had just retaken sixth and as Toseland planned his final attack he suddenly lost two more places to Toni Elias and Capirossi.
“I was getting ready to pass Mika at the last corner when Elias came under me at Turn 10,” he explained. “That let Loris through too and I'd gone from sixth to ninth!”
But the drama wasn't over yet as Kallio crashed out of sixth with just a few corners to go, then Elias and Capirossi tangled at the final chicane, allowing Toseland to slice past on the run to the line.
“It was so chaotic I didn't even see Kallio crash and I thought when Elias dived under Loris at the last chicane that they might run off,” he said. “Fortunately for me they did and I took advantage of it, and leading that group for so long I think I deserved sixth.
“It has been great to work with Mr Nakajima and I feel quite privileged to have his help and it just shows that I'm still on Yamaha's thoughts and they want me to get up to speed,” he admitted.
“I have to say massive congratulations to James," added team manager Herve Poncharal. “He's not had an easy time but he was able to lead an incredible fight in a group that included some of the very best riders in this championship.
“It was not easy to lead that group like he did but he did an unbelievable job and he definitely deserved that top six. He is a fighter and he proved that today and it was great that we played a big part in Yamaha's success today, with all four bikes in the top six.”