It may not have been as spectacular as his 2006 Estoril ride, when he stormed from eleventh on the grid to win his first MotoGP race by 0.002sec over Valentino Rossi, but Toni Elias put on another impressive performance in Sunday's 2009 Portuguese Grand Prix.
Starting just 13th on the grid, the San Carlo Honda Gresini rider produced a fine display of his late-braking style to pass Marco Melandri (Hayate) on the opening lap followed by James Toseland (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Randy de Puniet (LCR Honda) on lap two.
After closing the gap to the group in front he made further passes on Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) and Nicky Hayden (Ducati), while a crash for Mika Kallio (Pramac) set him up for a thrilling battle for sixth with factory Honda rider Andrea Dovizioso.
Elias passed the Italian with five laps to go, and held on by just 0.014 seconds at the line.
“I made a mistake yesterday in qualifying and had to start from thirteenth, and even though I didn't get off the line as well as I would have liked I soon got into my rhythm and was able to produce a good fightback,” recalled Toni, who is still unsigned for 2010.
“The hardest part was getting past Hayden and Dovizioso but I was able to make a move on Andrea near the end and I am delighted to have held on to sixth place, which is a position we deserve. We finished ahead of one of the factory Honda bikes and that is important,” he added.
Dovizioso was naturally disappointed to lose out by such a small margin, as he tried a repeat of Elias' move on Rossi out of the final turn.
“I was able to hold the gap to Elias behind me, but then I lost time on one lap and he came past,” revealed the Italian. “I closed again and it was really close on the last lap - I thought I had a chance of taking the place out of the last corner but it didn't happen.”
Elias is now joint tenth in the championship with Chris Vermeulen (Suzuki) and just seven points behind seventh placed Capirossi.
“Today we moved up into the top ten of the championship and in two weeks time we go to a circuit [Phillip Island] where we know it will be tough for us but where we hope to get the points that will help us towards our objective of seventh in the championship,” said the Spaniard.
Team-mate Alex de Angelis was forced to retire after developing an electrical problem on lap seven.
“It is disappointing that it happened in the race and not in practice because it would have given us a warning – it was clearly an electrical problem though,” he insisted. “This week the Honda engineers will run all the tests they need to do and they'll tell us exactly what the problem is and I'm sure it won't happen again.”