Few expected Aleix Espargaro to make much of an impression on the MotoGP World Championship, when he was announced as a last minute stand-in for Mika Kallio at the Indianapolis and Misano rounds.
After all, it was Mattia Pasini who had been invited to test for Pramac Ducati after Brno, but the Italian turned the race opportunity down and only then did the team turn to Espargaro - a former 125 and 250cc rider without a full time 2009 deal and a best finish of fourth in the quarter-litre class.
Despite no prior knowledge of a MotoGP machine, the 20-year-old turned heads by beating at least one rider in every track session at Indy - on his way to 13th in the race - then broke new ground with tenth [out of 17 riders] in Saturday morning free practice at Misano.
But the Spaniard saved his best performance for last, riding from 15th on the grid to eleventh (out of 14 finishers) in Sunday's San Marino Grand Prix - and setting the fifth fastest race lap!
That lap time was only 0.927sec slower than race winner Valentino Rossi, with only the Italian's Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, plus Repsol Honda riders Dani Pedrosa and Andrea Dovizioso also outpacing Espargaro - who has had less than 9 hours on a MotoGP bike.
Espargaro's team-mate, Niccolo Canepa, set the 13th fastest race lap, 0.775sec slower than the #44. The next fastest Ducati rider, with Nicky Hayden having been eliminated at turn two, was Kallio in eighth, 0.069sec from Espargaro.
Aleix set his fast pace despite suffering chronic arm-pump problems, which he undergo surgery for on Monday.
"We can consider our self satisfied of what we have done today on track,” he said on Sunday evening. “In Indy, in my MotoGP debut, I had to learn everything about my new experience and here we have demonstrated we are able to be competitive.
“In the first laps I was going really well and at one stage I was part of a group of riders [Vermeulen, Toseland, Melandri and Kallio] who were fighting for seventh position.
“After the 15th lap [of 28] I felt again a lot of pain in my right forearm and for me it was impossible to maintain that rhythm. I could manage to brake somehow with the palm of my hand, but I couldn't' completely open the throttle and I was losing too much in top speed. A pity.
“On Monay in Madrid at 10am I will have surgery so that I can be in top form for my next ride in whatever class it will be.
“I want to thank the Pramac Racing Team, Paolo Campinoti and Ducati for the fantastic opportunity they gave me to debut in MotoGP with the hope that I didn't disappoint them.”
After 28 laps Espargaro was 46.6sec behind race winner Rossi.
With Casey Stoner due to return to the factory Ducati team next time at Estoril, Kallio will be back at Pramac, but Espargaro has surely put himself in the shop window for a 2010 MotoGP or Moto2 seat.