Aleix Espargaro exceeded expectations on his MotoGP debut at the Indianapolis Grand Prix, with his only mistake of the weekend being to punt fellow Spaniard Toni Elias onto the grass at turn two of the race.
Starting the event without even a lap on a MotoGP bike, the 20-year-old turned heads by outpacing two riders - including his Pramac Ducati team-mate Niccolo Canepa - in Friday practice.
Indeed, Espargaro - previous best grand prix finish of fourth, in the 250cc class - was never last in any track session and qualified in 16th, once again ahead of Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda).
After tangling with Elias at turn two of the race, Espargaro finished lap one in 16th, ahead of only the Gresini Honda rider. Elias soon made his way past, but mistakes by Dani Pedrosa and then Valentino Rossi put Espargaro 15th by lap 10 of 28.
Aleix, whose younger brother Pol won the 125cc race, then overtook Talmacsi for 14th, which - despite a pass by the recovering Pedrosa - became 13th at the chequered flag when Canepa's bike stopped and Marco Melandri crashed.
"I'm happy about this weekend. I enjoyed riding this bike a lot. Three months ago, I was at my house, and now to be here for MotoGP was fantastic," smiled Espargaro afterwards.
"I started really well, but I was stuck in a group of riders and I couldn't manage to avoid Elias. I am very sorry for this also because he is a good friend.
"I managed to get back on track, but being alone it wasn't easy to ride. I tried to maintain a good rhythm and at the end I conquered three points in my first MotoGP race: not so bad."
Elias, who has caused first turn incidents in the past, was quick to accept Espargaro's apology.
"Unfortunately I was pushed onto the grass by Aleix into the second turn and it ruined my race. He came to apologise at the end of the race and I told him not to worry - it has happened to all of us in the past!" he smiled.
"It is a shame because I think we could have been on the podium today, or at least in the top five, but to take ninth under the circumstances is still a positive result."
Espargaro, who became the youngest ever Spanish rider to start a MotoGP race, now aims to built on his Indianapolis debut during this weekend's Misano round.
"Now I know a bit better the bike and I believe we can do much better in Misano, a circuit that I particularly like," he said.
Espargaro's best race lap was 16th out of the 17 riders, 1.986sec behind the best set by race winner Jorge Lorenzo (fiat Yamaha) but only 0.051sec slower than Canepa's best lap.