Colin Edwards flew the Yamaha flag in style at the Sepang on Saturday, when the American claimed a fourth place start for his penultimate grand prix as an M1 rider.
Consistently fast all weekend, Edwards' performances have caused many to ask if he should be replacing Jorge Lorenzo at the factory team, rather than back-of-the grid test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga.
And with Lorenzo's team-mate Ben Spies also struggling with injury, Monster Tech 3 rider Edwards has been the only Yamaha capable of threatening the factory Hondas.
Edwards beat one of them, Gresini's Marco Simoncelli, as he qualified 0.548sec from pole and behind only the Repsol trio of Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner and Andrea Dovizioso.
“I'm ecstatic with that result because to get a fourth place in any session against this level of competition is a pretty big achievement," smiled the 37-year-old Texan, who will race a Suter-BMW CRT bike for Forward Racing in 2012. "I said yesterday that we rolled the bike out of the crate hot and today I felt even more confident.
"Usually I have a really good couple of tests in February and then come back for the race and I have an awful time. But with this year's chassis I'm really enjoying this track. We've barely moved away from the setting we left the second test with in February and the bike feels awesome.
"I'm pushing hard but I don't feel like I'm right on the limit like I have in some races and it relatively easy. I can ride smooth and the bike is turning really well. We'd like more traction, but in this heat and humidity the grip is always going to be the thing that's missing.
"I'm not far off the front row but I didn't leave anything out there. The lap I did my best time on, I took a couple of risks, so I couldn't have done any better. Fourth is my best qualifying result since Valencia in 2008. That seems like a long, long time ago, so it would be great to follow today up with a top five result tomorrow and send my awesome Monster Yamaha Tech 3 crew home happy."
Rookie team-mate Cal Crutchlow will start his first Malaysian Grand Prix from tenth place, and couldn't help but admire the effort by Edwards.
“We definitely made some progress today and the bike was turning better and the rear grip was improved as well," he said. "The surface feels really greasy and it will be a case of who can keep the best grip for the longest but I'm confident we've got a good set-up.
"Colin did an amazing job today to take fourth. He's doing Yamaha proud without Jorge being here and Ben obviously riding in a lot of pain, so if anything he's getting faster as he gets older!”