MotoGP rookie Hiroshi Aoyama, who fractured his back mid-season and hadn't finished higher than tenth place, produced a breakthrough ride at Sepang on Sunday.
The Interwetten Honda rider battled from 14th on the grid to a high of sixth place, but was on the receiving end of several harsh moves from former 250cc rival Marco Simoncelli.
“At the beginning I was finding my rhythm and then I started to overtake rider by rider," he explained. "Then I was able to stay with the group that was fighting for fourth position.
"I could have led this group, as my rhythm was better than theirs. But Simoncelli rode a very aggressive race and touched me a couple of times."
Aoyama crossed the line seventh after losing out to factory Ducati rider Nicky Hayden in the last two laps.
"The seventh place is the best result so far in this season and my team worked very hard to achieve this. I want to thank my team and I hope that we can improve the result at Phillip Island.”
On his way to seventh, Aoyama set the fourth fastest race lap - slower than only race winner Valentino Rossi (+0.566sec), runner-up Andrea Dovizioso (+0.256sec) and new world champion Jorge Lorenzo (+0.059sec)!
“Hiro could have done better without the actions of Simoncelli, but we are satisfied with the result," said crew chief Tom Jojic. "On lap seven Hiro's lap time matched the lap time of Lorenzo. This shows that he can go with the group and we look forward to Phillip Island now.”