Starting a record-equalling 276th grand prix means it's not often that Loris Capirossi breaks new ground, but the Italian was able to celebrate his landmark appearance with a debut Rizla Suzuki podium on Sunday in the Czech Republic.
Capirossi was still in ninth place by the end of the opening lap, but soon set about hunting down the riders ahead of him and had battled up to third - behind only Yamaha's Valentino Rossi and team-mate Chris Vermeulen - after Casey Stoner fell from the race lead on lap seven.
Vermeulen and Capirossi put on an entertaining duel until the experienced Italian finally got the better of his GSV-R colleague to take second position on lap nine of 22. By then Toni Elias was fast closing and the Ducati rider stripped Loris of second on lap 10, but Capirossi was able to keep a safe third place by four seconds over Shinya Nakano.
"I want to say what a fantastic day this is for me today!" said Capirossi, after his 99th podium. "After the injury in Barcelona I have not had the opportunity to go quick due to my condition, but all the people around me - including the whole team and Suzuki - stayed really close to me and gave me great support so I am really happy to pay them back with this podium - it actually feels more like a win for me because it means so much!
"After the break following Laguna, I was able to get some rest and start training again to get myself back in the best condition, and although I am still not 100% I am nearly there and I was able to challenge all weekend," he continued. "My dream this weekend was to fight for a podium, after Friday I felt I could do that and today I started with a good focus to do my best. This result is for all the team and everybody working with me, because when we make a great result I am really happy, and today I am certainly really happy!"
Both Capirossi and Vermeulen are expected to keep their Suzuki seats for next season and team manager Paul Denning was delighted that Capirossi had joined Vermeulen in claiming a 2008 rostrum finish.
"Everybody at Rizla Suzuki and back at the Factory are absolutely delighted for Loris that he has overcome the injuries that have restricted him in the last few grands prix - he has shown true fighting spirit. A podium is a great reward for his efforts and for his crew who have kept working so hard to help us move forward. Thanks to Loris and to them!" said Denning.
Having lost out to Capirossi, Vermeulen slipped further down the order with front tyre problems, but was able to adjust his riding style and salvage sixth position.
"I got a good start and was scrapping with the Kawasakis - which seemed like they were surprisingly fast today - and got held up by them a bit," recalled Chris. "I managed to get past Ant West and then started to catch John Hopkins, but I started to have some issues with front grip and had to change the way I was riding the bike.