Shinya Nakano helped his chances of securing a third Kawasaki MotoGP seat for 2009 by producing one of his best results of the season at Phillip Island on Sunday.
The Japanese, whose current Gresini Honda ride will go to Toni Elias, has been increasingly linked to the third 'Aspar' ZX-RR project - his final chance to continue as a full time MotoGP rider.
Nakano's best finish of the season so far was a fourth on his factory RCV debut at Brno, but claimed just twelve points in the three races since - a tally he was able to almost double with a tactical fifth in the Australian Grand Prix.
Nakano had qualified just ninth, but was up to sixth by the end of the opening lap and spent the second half of the race in a thrilling battle for fourth with James Toseland, Jorge Lorenzo and Andrea Dovizioso.
"Despite our problems in practice the race went well - I got a good start and managed to improve on my pace from practice so I'm really satisfied," said Shinya. "After the warm-up we decided on a medium compound tyre, which proved to be the right choice because the bike felt really balanced and I was able to stick with a fast group of riders from the start."
Shinya seemed strangely subdued as he held position at the tail of the pack, but was actually saving his softer compound rear tyre for the final laps - a tactic that paid off when he got past both Toseland and Dovizioso on the very last lap.
"Having chosen a softer compound I obviously didn't want to risk too much in the early stages because I needed to save some rubber for the end and on the final five laps I really pushed hard, taking two riders and crossing the line in fifth," he confirmed. " It has been a long time since I enjoyed a race like this so today I'm happy I was able to show our true potential and I'd like to thank the team for that.”
"I'm really happy with Shinya's race - he rode very well and was aggressive in the right way, which allowed him to go with a fast group," said team manager Fausto Gresini. "The tyre choice was the right one and he was rewarded for that. We needed a race like that because it gives us all the motivation to finish the season strongly."
Rookie team-mate Alex de Angelis was less successful, crashing out on the first lap.
"I'm really disappointed with today because I finally managed to get a good start and I'd made up some positions," said the San Marinese. "After the first couple of corners I was following de Puniet but he made a mistake under braking and I was too close behind him to avoid him. Unfortunately I came out worse and I'm disappointed because today was a good opportunity for us to show our potential. I'm sorry for the whole team because they've all worked so well here, making constant improvements in every session."