MotoGP rookie Andrea Dovizioso emerged triumphant for a near race-long battle with Nicky Hayden to claim his first premier-class podium in Sunday's Malaysian Grand prix at Sepang.
Dovizioso propelled his JiR Team Scot Honda from sixth on the grid to second at turn one, before being levered from the position by Valentino Rossi at the start of lap 2. Thereafter, the young Italian put on an impressive defensive display, heading a seven-rider fight for the final podium position by the half-way stage.
"The race was hard and after a good start, Valentino and Dani gained ground, while Nicky I were left behind," recalled Dovi. "I led alone, focusing on myself, because I had no references in front and felt the approach of Nicky's Honda going into every turn!
"When I saw the group behind, I realised my situation and realised that I could not afford to make the slightest mistake. I made the most of the tyres, which in these conditions slid a lot, and I had to drive hard by picking the bike up out of the corners early," he revealed.
Hayden, whose factory Honda seat Dovizioso will take next season, was in the former 125cc world champion's wheeltracks for most of the race, making several unsuccessful attempts to pass before finally putting his pneumatic RCV ahead at turn one with four laps to go.
Dovizioso resisted and, after being reluctantly forced to yield through the opening sequence of turns, struck straight back at Hayden under braking for the following tight uphill right hander.
A brief bobble by Hayden then gave Dovizioso momentarily breathing room, but the #69 was back on his rear wheel during the final lap - but Andrea was perfect on the brakes and held on for his first top three finish by just 0.3sec.
"In the last few laps I was passed by Nicky but I managed to finish ahead and finally realise my podium finish," smiled Dovizioso, who had finished in fourth place three times prior to Sepang. "The first podium in MotoGP, after so much work in a season full of satisfaction: this is important for me and for my team.
"I wanted to give other podiums to the team but I hope that this will repay them for all the work done this year, but it is also a thanks for the seven years that we have competed together. With the Scot Team I won the world 125cc championship and we wanted to achieve something spectacular, given that next year I will be in the works HRC Repsol Honda team," he added.