Toni Elias had a short but spectacular British MotoGP at Donington Park on Sunday, pulling off some aggressive passes and leading his first MotoGP race for several years, only to crash out on lap 8 of 30.
Starting eighth on the grid, the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider was at his aggressive best during a brave opening lap that saw him overtake world championship leaders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo for the race lead.
Elias remained in front until lap three, and had dropped back to fifth by lap four. But the Spaniard was still very much part of the lead group, and - as the conditions worsened - began climbing back up the order, snatching fourth from factory Honda rider Dani Pedrosa early in lap 8.
Slicks tyres on an increasingly wet track was a risky combination for all the competitors (except Casey Stoner and Nicky Hayden) and Elias became the first victim of the conditions when he touched a wet white line on the exit of the high-speed Schwantz curve moments after passing Pedrosa.
The 2006 Estoril winner was thrown straight from his RC212V and into retirement.
“The crash was a real shame because I felt we were capable of a good result today. I'm really disappointed for everybody in the team,” said Elias. “I got a great start and my pace was really strong, but unfortunately my rear wheel ran slightly onto the white line and it was so slippery that I crashed.
“It was nice to at least run at the front for a while and even lead the race, and when I was behind Rossi I was comfortably able to follow his pace. That's what makes me so convinced I could have kept it up to the end.
“I don't want to think about the negatives or what might have been because the good news today was that we ran with the front guys and we know we can do it. That gives a great confidence boost for the future,” he insisted.
Team-mate Alex de Angelis kept his machine on two wheels and was rewarded for his patience and skill with a joint career-best fourth at the chequered flag, having started the race from just twelfth on the grid.
“I am absolutely delighted,” smiled the San Marinese. “That was one of the most difficult races in my whole career because when you're on a bike with so much power in those conditions, on a circuit like Donington, which everybody knows is particularly slippery, it's tough!