Ben Spies got his first real taste of bar-to-bar action with seven time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi during Sunday's Qatar Grand Prix.
Riding Rossi's former factory Yamaha for the first time, Spies saw his hopes of a podium challenge effectively end when he dropped from fifth to eighth on the first lap.
That put the 2009 World Superbike champion and 2010 MotoGP Rookie of the Year directly behind Rossi, who was making his Ducati debut.
Once both had passed Hector Barbera, Spies and Rossi were left to duke it out alone.
Rossi may be at less than full strength, and yet to gel with the Desmosedici, but he was never going to be a pushover to pass and for ten laps the Italian kept Spies at bay, before the Texan finally made a move stick.
It was only then that Spies was able to show his real potential, dropping Rossi at the rate of one-second a lap over the remaining six laps and setting the fourth best lap of the race.
But the earlier time lost meant Spies still finished three-seconds behind fifth place Marco Simoncelli.
“I got pushed out a bit in turn one, getting trapped behind Barbera and Rossi the first few laps. They were fighting together which meant I lost touch with the guys in front,” confirmed Spies.
“Other than that it was a good race, I struggled to get by Valentino for a while, he was riding really well and he's not an easy guy to get around!
“Once we were able to get past we set fast lap times and the bike was feeling good. It was just the first part of the race that didn't pan out, I didn't get a lucky break on the start.
“It's the first race of the year, I didn't make top five but we got some points so I'm happy,” he insisted.
New team-mate and reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo finished second in a race won by Casey Stoner.
Spies finished fifth at Qatar last year for Tech 3, helped by Stoner crashing out of the lead.