San Carlo Honda Gresini's Toni Elias picked up his best result of the 2009 season so far with sixth place in the US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca, replicating his position on the starting grid.
Chasing the lead group over the opening laps, Elias moved up one position to fifth with a pass on local favourite Nicky Hayden on lap seven but was only able to hold his advantage for one lap before the American fought back.
Pursuing Hayden for the rest of the race, Elias dropped off by two seconds at mid-distance but gained the ground back in the second half of the race to close the gap to just four tenths by the final lap, eventually resisting the temptation of a late pass in the final corner.
“It is not a bad result and we couldn't have done much more than that because my race pace was exactly the same as in practice,” said Elias. “I was able to go quicker for a lap or two in practice but generally we knew this was what we would be capable of today in terms of my own performance.
“To be honest I was hoping the front guys would be a little slower than that and allow us to challenge them but the pace was very quick so compliments to them,” he added. “In general this weekend has been much better than previous races and so was the result, but we always want more.”
“Toni had a good race because after the crash in the warm-up this morning I was quite worried but he didn't let it faze him and he rode well,” stated team manager Fausto Gresini. “Potentially we could have been fighting for a better result here but sixth place is okay and this is the second race in succession that we have been fighting for a top six finish, so we have taken a step forward although we now need to take another one – in particular in finding a setting that allows Toni to run with the harder race tyre.”
It was a much more disappointing race for team-mate Alex de Angelis, who finished eleventh.
“I was really struggling over the first few laps and the bike was moving around a lot but the problem eased in the second half of the race and I was able to push harder,” he said. “I honestly thought I could run with Vermeulen today and that would have been a battle for eighth place so it's a shame we suffered this setback. Anyway, at least we picked up a few points.”