Fonsi Nieto has returned to the World Superbike podium for the first time since his third place finish in Phillip Island more than seven months ago after a fighting ride to second place at Magny-Cours.
After surprising many with his tremendous performance in Qatar and Australia with Suzuki at the start of the season, Nieto's form has tumbled in recent months, raising doubts about whether he will be staying with the team in 2009.
Nonetheless, despite struggling in the early stages with a heavy bike from second place on the grid, Nieto raised his game towards the end of the race, reeling in Carlos Checa, Michel Fabrizio and, finally, Troy Bayliss over the final few laps.
Eventually getting the better of all three, the podium result matches what he achieved aboard a Kawasaki at the same circuit twelve months ago.
“The first race was a good result for me,” he said. “Everything worked very well and the only problem I had was at the start when my fuel tank was full and the bike was not so easy to handle. After some laps, the fuel was less and I was able to push harder.”
Race two proved more difficult after Nieto was forced to switch to his spare bike following gearchange problems on his other machine. Dropping back steadily as the race progressed, Nieto was still able to finish eighth and secure his biggest points haul since that race at Losail.
”For race two, I had to use my spare bike because the gearchange was not working properly on my number one bike. My spare bike did not feel as good or as fast, so I just had to ride as hard as I could without doing anything stupid. Eighth is not wonderful, but this weekend I have scored more points than any other weekend except the first round in Qatar and that makes me happy.”