Rookie Alvaro Bautista produced a stand-out ride in Sunday's Catalan Grand Prix, where he claimed Suzuki's best race finish of the season with fifth position.

A previous best of tenth in the premier-class, Bautista spent the first half of the race in seventh, which became sixth when Marco Simoncelli crashed and fifth when Andrea Dovizioso slid out.

But Bautista had to work hard to keep the position, with fellow rookie Ben Spies - a podium finisher at Silverstone - hounding him in the closing stages. Bautista kept fifth by just 0.142sec at the chequered flag.

"I am very happy because this fifth position is like winning the race after the last few races we've had," said Bautista. "We really needed this result, for me, for my team and especially for Suzuki.

"I was very strong all weekend and was confident that I could do a good race here. I was very concentrated at the start because I knew if I could start well I could stay with the group in front. I did that, but I did have a bit of a problem in the race with the hard-braking places because I didn't feel that the bike was entering the corners like in the practice.

"In the last laps I saw that Spies was coming very fast and I tried to push a bit more, but the rear tyre was used up and I couldn't do any more, so I rode tight for the last lap to make sure I got fifth position," he added.

"I am so pleased for ?lvaro here today, because to see him come back from his injury - and the problems it's caused him in the last few weeks - to such a high level, is a fantastic achievement," added team manager Paul Denning. "He thoroughly deserved his top-five finish."

Suzuki's previous best 2010 race finish was ninth by Loris Capirossi at round one in Qatar, and Bautista gave his reputation a huge boost by beating the experienced Italian in Sunday's race.

Capirossi was behind Bautista from start-to-finish as he struggled with a tyre 'mistake', eventually taking the flag in seventh place.

"I want to say well done to the whole team because this is the first real result of the whole year," began Loris. "For sure we did a good job all weekend, but we made a mistake with the tyre for the race.

"All the information we had said that it was impossible to use the softer tyre for the race and we used our ones in practice because we didn't think we'd need them for this afternoon... but in the race I was one of the only ones with the harder compound and I struggled a lot with feeling at the start.

" It worked well in the middle of the race, but the performance dropped for the last four laps and I struggled to keep a good rhythm. This is the first time this year I have felt that the bike has been right and this for us is a really important thing."

"Loris also looked strong - especially in the middle of the race - and only lost out to Ben in the final laps when a finish rather than a crash - as his rear grip dropped away significantly - was the right decision," said Denning.

"The team prepared well for the race today, but most importantly the riders have some belief back in the bike and in their ability to push hard. From a riding performance and a bike setting point of view, hopefully this is the start of our season."

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