Alvaro Bautista put a nightmare start to the 2014 MotoGP season firmly behind him by scoring his first podium since 2012 at Le Mans on Sunday.

The Gresini Honda rider overtook Tech 3 Yamaha rookie Pol Espargaro for third place with ten laps to go, remaining just out of reach of his fellow Spaniard to the finish.

Bautista had fallen during the opening three races of this year, then claimed his first points of the season with sixth at Jerez.

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"I'm so happy to be back on the podium. It's been more than one year since I've had this feeling - especially after a difficult start to the season with three crashes," smiled Bautista.

"In Qatar, we were competitive and fighting for the podium but just before the last lap I crashed. Then in Austin and Argentina we have a lot of problems in practice and in the race again crashed, so for us it was a critical moment. In Jerez at least we finished the race and began to build confidence for this race.

"Here from first free practice I felt so good on the bike. We worked really well and had no big problems with the setup. I knew I could be competitive. For sure Marc was another step all weekend, but we knew we could stay with the rest.

"I was very careful at the beginning of the race because I saw a lot of riders making mistakes and running wide. I just kept calm and tried to get into my rhythm. I overtook the slower riders ahead. Vale and Marc were a little faster than me, but by the end I was riding like Vale.

"To get back on the podium is a great result for me and my team. It also gives us a lot of confidence for the next races. Now we have to keep this feeling and try to stay with the front guys."

Team boss and former world champion Fausto Gresini added: "Alvaro raced to a fantastic podium! We were already very close to it at the beginning of the season, but then we experienced hen we experienced a difficult period marked by various mistakes.

"But it's in these times of crisis that we must be able to give our maximum and we did it by re-starting from scratch. I talked a lot with Alvaro after the Grand Prix of Argentina and I think that it's been useful for him to find again the right attitude."

Both of Bautista's previous MotoGP podiums also came with Gresini Honda, in 2012.