Hector Barbera finished as the top rookie rider in Sunday's French MotoGP at Le Mans, after climbing from 15th on the grid to eighth.

It was something of a breakthrough performance for the Paginas Amarillas Aspar rider, who finished the first lap in 14th before picking off both experienced opponents and fellow rookies.

Barbera got the better of class veteran Colin Edwards for ninth place with four laps to go, then overtook former 250cc rival Marco Simoncelli for eighth.

But the battle was far from over and Barbera crossed the finish line just 1.2sec ahead of Aleix Espargaro, Simoncelli and Hiroshi Aoyama - all in their first full MotoGP season.

"I am very happy and think that the post-grand prix test that we did at Jerez was very important for us," explained Barbera, who had finished twelfth and 13th in the first two rounds. "We found a few adjustments that have really worked out. The team worked very well this weekend; despite us losing our way a little, they prepared a very good bike for the race.

"I was second-to-last on the grid, and my thinking was that only one rider could overtake me and I had nothing to lose. With this idea in mind, the goal was to enjoy the race -something that I hadn't yet been able to do. I discovered early on that the left-handers were difficult for me, as the tyres didn't have a chance to get up to temperature on that side.

"I started to get more confident as the laps progressed, although when I had a slight coming together with Aoyama I lost a few positions. Then I made another fightback and got up to eighth. I am highly satisfied, because the front end feeling was finally good for me.

"I am aware that my over-exuberance in the first two races stopped me from doing well, but the goal for this race was to not lose touch of the group ahead. I achieved this and for that reason I can be happy," he declared.

Simoncelli is presently the top rookie in the championship standings, but is now just one points ahead of Barbera, in ninth.


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