Yamaha test rider Katsuyuki Nakasuga finished ninth as a wild-card entry in his home Japanese Grand Prix at Motegi.
The 31-year-old, who rode from 15th to sixth as a replacement for the injured Jorge Lorenzo
at a damp Valencia last year, qualified in eleventh - then spent almost the entire race shadowing 2006 world champion Nicky Hayden.
Coming out of the final corner and onto the finish straight Nakasuga used the slipstream to move alongside Hayden as they crossed the finish line, but was just 0.07 seconds short of passing the factory Ducati star.
Nakasuga felt he will improve as a rider after the experience.
“My entry this time was partly as a test rider, so I was glad to get through race weekend without any falls and, although I wasn't able to pass him, I felt fortunate to complete the race running close behind Nicky Hayden
and seeing the performance of one of the top riders in the world,” said Nakasuga.
“I feel this experience has improved me as a racer. I wasn't able to reach my goal of finishing 6th or better, but I was able to score a top-ten finish and to run in the 1'47 lap range as I had planned.
“Now I want to apply the experience I gained here to my racing in Japan's JSB1000 class series. I am truly grateful for this opportunity to race in such an intense, highly competitive race and for the support I have received from the fans, the YSP team and staff and everyone involved.”
Nakasuga, whose entry was run by the Yamaha YSP Racing Team, finished 36s behind race winner Dani Pedrosa
(Honda) and 20s behind the next closest M1 of Andrea Dovizioso