With Colin Edwards recovering from collarbone surgery in hospital, rookie team-mate Cal Crutchlow did his best to raises the spirits of the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 team with an excellent sixth on the grid in MotoGP qualifying at Catalunya.
The Englishman has never raced at Catalunya before, but was still able to mix it with the factory riders.
The former World Supersport champion was as high as fourth heading into the closing stages and qualified as the highest satellite bike rider, having beaten the likes of factory Ducati riders Valentino Rossi and Nicky Hayden.
Although 0.789sec from Marco Simoncelli's pole time, Crutchlow was within half a second of the top factory Yamaha of world champion Jorge Lorenzo, who will start third.
“I'm happy enough to be on the second row of the grid again because this is another track I've come to with zero experience and I've shown my raw speed and proved a few people wrong," said Crutchlow.
"Ben [Spies] was fifth [for Tech 3] here last year and I was trying to get that one place higher up to equal it, but I can't be disappointed with sixth on the grid. All credit to the team because they have done a fantastic job again.
"We've still got some work to do to improve the side grip but I'm confident we can make the set-up better for the race. As soon as I open the throttle I'm struggling for grip, so if we can improve in that area we should be on course for a strong result.
"As I get faster and faster I have to keep changing my riding style but I think I can have an interesting race if I can get away from the start. It's a long run down to the first corner here so I need a good start to avoid getting bunched up at the beginning.
"It's a shame Colin is not here because I can learn lot from him on the data that helps me out a lot, particularly with lines. I heard he sent the team a text saying he wanted to see me 'kick some ass', so hopefully I can do that for him tomorrow.”
Sixth matches Crutchlow's bets qualifying of the season and he will now be aiming to improve on his best race finish of eighth.
“Cal is certainly doing his best to put the smile back on our faces," said team manager Herve Poncharal. "His performances on tracks he's never seen before have been remarkable, and today he showed again he is a top level MotoGP rider.
"He looks more like a seasoned campaigner than a rookie and to qualify in the top six again against this competition is a fantastic achievement. We are looking forward to the race with a lot of confidence now and hopefully he can do Colin and the team proud.”