Bradley Smith has spoken of his pleasure at his qualifying performance after a heroic showing saw him claim a spot on the fifth row of the grid.

On the back of a three-race absence due to a grizzly knee injury sustained while qualifying for the Endurance World Championship in Germany, Smith has made clear, steady progress throughout his comeback weekend at the Japanese Grand Prix.

The Englishman ended the first free practice session 5.6s off the fastest time, as he got a feel for the Tech 3 Yamaha M1, but he gradually upped his pace to qualify a very credible 15th.

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"We have to be more than pleased with today's qualifying position because 15th is far beyond what we could expect when considering my injury," said a pleased Smith.

"The team did an excellent job and together, we made some subtle changes to the bike which meant that step by step, my knee felt more comfortable in each session."

While the Englishman was pleased with progress through free practice, he is under no illusions that Sunday's race will pose a greater challenge.

"Of course, qualifying is only a short distance and tomorrow will be much harder with the race being 24 laps, but today's result is fantastic and now I just need to try and rest up as much as possible.

"For me, the tyre choice is quite clear for both ends of the bike and we have focused a lot on the rear grip, which is very important here because of the big acceleration.

"We will see what tomorrow brings but I've given myself a good opportunity by qualifying in 15th and the main objective is to get through the 24 laps."