Tohru Ukawa enjoyed his most competitive race of the 2003 MotoGP season yesterday at Phillip Island, the Japanese - rumoured to lose his premier class seat at the end of the year - battling in the lead group for third place right up to final lap.

At that point, fifth placed Ukawa was within 1sec of third placed Gibernau - with Nicky Hayden between them. However, as the trio jostled for position, Ukawa made contract with the American, dropping him out of touch.

"I bumped into Hayden at the start of the last lap which made me lose contact with him and this meant I lost all chance of finishing third," explained the Camel Pramac Pons rider. "I am not unhappy with the race as I stayed among the leading group and I enjoyed the racing.

"However, I expected more. It was very windy and the track was dirty from the rain that fell before and, halfway through the race when I was following Capirossi and Gibernau, a stone was thrown up and broke the windshield on my bike," he added.

"Ukawa had a good race. He battled aggressively from start to finish," stated team owner Sito Pons.

Ukawa's team-mate Max Biaggi finished 17th after an off track detour.



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