Damian Cudlin may not have reached the finish in Sunday's Japanese Grand Prix, but he delivered a solid weekend performance after being thrown in the MotoGP deep-end with arguably the toughest bike on the grid.
The 29-year-old was picked as a surprise replacement for the injured Loris Capirossi at the Pramac Ducati team. The Endurance/IDM racer and Suter test rider began the event with no prior experience of an 800cc MotoGP bike or the Motegi circuit.
Nevertheless, the Australian reduced the difference to the front of the field in every track session - a 5.9sec deficit to the leading rider in first practice being cut to a creditable 2.7sec by his best lap in the race.
Unfortunately, Cudlin wasn't to see the chequered flag, having fallen from 14th place - just behind local Honda wild-card Kousuke Akiyoshi - on lap 15 of 24.
"I made a good start, I felt good and in the first lap I thought I could overtake both Colin [Edwards] and Randy [de Puniet, team-mate], but I didn't want to cause any accidents - that wouldn't be very smart as a rookie," said Cudlin.
"As time went on I got more and more feeling with the bike and managed to achieve and maintain the pace with Akiyoshi. I was planning to stay with him until the end, then try to overtake him in the last few laps, but in a tight left corner I braked too late and lost the front.
"I'm very sorry about how it ended this weekend, before today I had only fallen once in all the other categories that I have raced in this year, and to finish this experience like this leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
"I hope to have similar opportunities in the near future to be able to improve. However, I want to thank the Pramac Racing Team for allowing me this wonderful experience.”
de Puniet finished the race in tenth place, with a best race lap 0.7sec better than Cudlin.
Capirossi, who will retire at the end of the year, is hoping to return to action next tie out at Phillip Island, Australia.