Securing points in Japan seven weeks after suffering a ghastly knee injury was one thing. But to latch onto, then ghost through, a frantic seven-rider scrap to secure a fighting eighth place could only be described by one word by Bradley Smith: “awesome”.
Still struggling with a lack of movement in the knee which he damaged in a freak fall in practice for the Endurance World Championship, Smith was all-too-aware of the dangers of falling again in the opening laps.
Thus he began cautiously but soon found a rhythm that brought him ever closer to the fight for seventh.
“The thing is with this injury and being buried so deep, the last thing you want is either to cause and accident or be part of an accident,” said Smith after the race.
“Of course I can't quite get into the right corners how I'd like so the opening three laps I just gave myself way too much space, everyone jumps me and then I get shuffled back. Once I got into my rhythm though I was happy.
“I hunted down, I think, five seconds to that group. That was even a surprise to myself but then those last laps I just really turned the screw and made my way through it. Eighth position was awesome. I'll take that all day long.
“I felt better physically – fitness-wise and also from a knee position. Everything seems to be going in the right direction. I don't expect Malaysia to be as easy, because it never is there, but I'm certainly pleased with the progress this weekend.”
Asked if he was hesitant to engage in combat in a group that included a host of tough moves, Smith continued, “ A little bit. I got there and I was a little bit hesitant.
“Things were kicking off. I could see the guys burning their tyres so I was almost happy to sit back for a couple of laps to get a breather and to try and save the rear tyre a little bit.
Then obviously with three laps to go I just turned it up, turned the screw, made a few passes and the tyre that I had left got me out of the last corner to pass the guys.
“It was definitely scary seeing MotoGP bikes three or four abreast into corners, especially into turn one. It was scary sitting behind them as well, getting the wind buffering. But that's part of racing. It was nice to have the instinct in me to push on. I timed it perfectly.”
Smith went on to explain how he had surprised himself by competing with riders he had raced with all year.
“I don't know. I didn't really know what to expect. Certainly after last weekend and sitting on the grid, I expected if we had a great race to be in the top twelve. To finally get eighth – OK, a few guys crashed out, this, that and the other – I didn't expect to gain five seconds back to that group.
“That group is the group of guys I was racing before. Redding, Petrucci, Hayden, Miller, they're guys that are riding good. A couple of them are riding better this weekend than usual. The other guys were the ones I've been battling with pretty much all season.
“I surprised myself today with the performance but the Yamaha was going strong. You just have to look at Valentino, what he was able to do, and Pol as well. I had a good bike underneath me today.”