Riding just two weeks' after breaking his collarbone, MotoGP rookie Cal Crutchlow was on target for his best grand prix finish as he battled the legendary Valentino Rossi for fourth in Saturday's Dutch TT at Assen.
Crutchlow, also the highest satellite-bike rider at the time, gained two places at the start to take fourth place, which he held until being passed by Rossi on lap 5 of 26.
By that point the Englishman was beginning to suffer front-tyre problems, but he kept in touch with Rossi for another five laps. But the problem was getting worse and, fearing an accident, Crutchlow was forced to pit on lap 11.
The former World Supersport champion rejoined two laps down in 14th and last place, where he finished.
“Looking at the positives I got a fantastic start and for the first few laps I was running close to the front in a MotoGP race for the first time," said Crutchlow. "I felt confident I could keep Valentino behind me but then after about five or six laps I started struggling with the front tyre on the right side.
"I had no choice but to come in and change it because if I had carried on pushing it was going to be easy to crash and that's the last thing I need to be doing at the moment. Having only had surgery on my left collarbone just over a week ago I just couldn't afford to have another crash.
"Without that I've no doubt I'd have finished fourth but I've proved again I've got the speed and shown that I can race with the best in this class."
Team manager Herve Poncharal revealed the right hand side of Crutchlow's tyre was 'finished'.
"Suddenly we saw the lap time of Cal drop a lot and he came to the pit where we found out that the right side of his soft front tyre was completely finished," said Poncharal. "So he left the pit again with a hard compound, but of course his race was finished, though I want to thank him for going back and pushing to his maximum for the team."
Crutchlow - like all riders except fellow rookie Karel Abraham, who crashed on lap one - used the soft option front-tyre for the race, due to the cool conditions and earlier rain showers.
Team-mate Colin Edwards, also riding with a healing collarbone, hit similar problems to Crutchlow and - after reaching fifth - dropped back to seventh at the flag.