Dani Pedrosa enjoyed his best race yet with Bridgestone tyres during Sunday's Malaysian Grand Prix, when the Repsol Honda rider led the first ten laps before claiming a safe second position.
Sepang was only Pedrosa's fourth race with Bridgestone tyres and he worked his way swiftly towards the sharp-end of the field during practice, culminating in his first Bridgestone pole on Saturday afternoon.
The Spaniard then got the holeshot and set a strong early pace but, critically for his victory hopes, could not escape from Valentino Rossi - who shadowed the #2 before outbraking him into a left hand hairpin on lap 11 of 21.
Pedrosa crossed the finish line four seconds from Rossi and the same margin ahead of third place Andrea Dovizioso.
"It was a very tough race and I'm happy very about this result. I want to thank my team, we have worked well, improving every session. On Friday morning we were only 17th, I think, then we started moving forward and yesterday we were able to get pole and today I finished second, so finally it has been a good weekend for me and my team," said Dani, who was injured at Sepang in pre-season testing.
"We have made another important step forward after Phillip Island where I crashed out of the race and hurt my left knee. At the end of today's race Valentino was faster than me, he always puts on some extra pressure towards the end, so it was difficult to follow him, but we were closer this time than we were at Motegi [where Pedrosa finished third], so I am happy that we are making progress with our new bike and tyres."
Unfortunately for Pedrosa, sixth place for Casey Stoner means he has lost any chance of second in the 2008 world championship standings - but the former 125 and 250cc world champion still has the chance to sweep all three of his home Spanish rounds with victory in next weekend's Valencia season finale.
"It has been a little bit difficult for me and my team to get used this package so late in the season, but we are getting faster every race and this is important," said Dani. "If we can get closer at the next race then we know we are working in a good direction. I am looking forward to Valencia next week: there will be a lot of Spanish fans there."
“Dani rode a good race, this is his best result since changing bike and tyres, so my thanks to him, to the team and to Bridgestone," said team manager Kazuhiko Yamano. "He scored a podium at Motegi last month but today he was much closer to the winner, which is a good sign. Now we will work very hard in the lead up to next weekend's Valencia GP, where we really want to win, like Dani and the team did last year.”
Pedrosa's Michelin-shod team-mate Nicky Hayden finished in fourth.