Jonathan Rea ended what could be his final MotoGP race until at least 2014 with a very respectable ride to seventh place at Aragon.
Rea, who replaced the injured Casey Stoner in the Repsol Honda team for the second race in succession, was unable to close the gap to Gresini Honda's Alvaro Bautista in sixth, but nonetheless was pleased with his performance on the RC213V.
The 25-year-old, who will continue to ride for Honda in the World Superbike Championship next year, achieved his objective of closing the deficit to the leading contenders since he made his debut on the 1000cc prototype.
He finished the race 32 seconds behind winner Dani Pedrosa and just four seconds adrift of Bautista.
“I'm happy I achieved my goal of reducing the gap to the guys at the front,” said Rea, who finished ahead of Ducati's Valentino Rossi after the Italian tangled with the WSBK star under braking for the final turn on lap one.
“In the end we managed it by 10 seconds but it was another difficult race as I found myself on my own again.
“At the beginning I let Alvaro have too big a gap and when I tried to make a push, it wasn't enough and we were only taking tenths out of him but I'm quite satisfied and I've learned a lot,” he added.
“In this race it was quite confusing for me as I was playing with the traction control buttons, the torque settings and the engine braking just to try and figure out what was happening, then there came a point where I told myself just to ride this thing and see what happens.”
Rea is uncertain whether he will have one final chance to ride for the team at Motegi as Casey Stoner targets a comeback at the Japanese Grand Prix, but the Ulsterman is grateful for the “amazing” opportunity he was granted to compete for the HRC team at Misano, where he finished eighth and Aragon.
“It's been amazing to get this chance and I'm not totally sure what's happening for Motegi but my best wishes go to Casey and I hope he comes back and shows the world the rider he is and ends his final season on a high,” he said.
“I want to thank all of HRC and the Repsol Honda Team for this opportunity and for treating me like one of their own, not like a replacement rider, it's been an amazing experience.
“This is my tenth year in the Honda family and hopefully I can come back here some day.”