Hiroshi Aoyama gave the Gresini Honda team something to smile about with a career-best run to fourth in the Spanish Grand Prix after charging from a lap one position of 16th.
The Japanese rider looked to be struggling in the damp conditions as he slipped from a grid position of tenth to 16th in just one lap, but began to get into his stride as others tumbled around him.
Indeed, as one of the few riders to keep the bike pointing in the right direction, Aoyama made significant headway, particularly in the latter stages as he cruised up to the back of third place Nicky Hayden.
Eventually running out of time, Aoyama was delighted with his fourth place finish – which betters a previous best of just seventh in MotoGP -, though he regrets just missing out on a podium he would have scored had he pushed harder earlier on.
”The situation was really tricky but we have taken a solid result from a tough race. A lot of riders went down but I was able to manage the situation at the most critical points. I am pleased but not totally satisfied because with a bit more conviction early in the race I could have passed some slower riders and I'm sure that would have put me on the podium.
“We have to wait until next time but this is a great confidence boost for me and the team, who have done a great job to give me a competitive bike in the wet conditions.”
Though the race will be seen as a missed opportunity for the Gresini Honda team after Marco Simoncelli's crash out of the lead, Aoyama's fourth place remains only its second top five result in more than a year.