Four riders made their MotoGP debut at Qatar on Sunday and for James Toseland it was also his first ever grand prix of any kind - but the Briton wasted no time with polite introductions as he traded paint right from the opening lap.

Brimming with confidence after securing a maiden front row grid position on Saturday, the 27-year-old showed no signs of any first race nerves as he played a leading part in the early race battles.

Third at the end of a hectic opening, the double World Superbike champion then climbed into second on lap two - after an aggressive pass on fellow Yamaha MotoGP rookie, and pole sitter, Jorge Lorenzo.

"The first couple of laps were pretty hectic and I put a move on Jorge that was quite close," admitted James. "That's just a lack of experience racing against these guys. I've raced against the same boys for seven years and know exactly what they do and when they do it.

"Jorge put his bike over my nose just as I was committed for the pass. I've just got to get used to how these guys take the corners so I can pass them a bit safer. But he left the door open a bit and I went for it. There was no harm done and after that I was trying everything I had to pass Andrea and Valentino," he added.

The closing stages saw Toseland at the tail end of a close three-way battle for fourth and, while JiR Honda rookie Andrea Dovizioso was eventually able to squeeze past a struggling Rossi, Toseland's spring-valve M1 was a little out of breath along the 1km home straight.

"I was catching up fractions of time all lap and I'd just get with them at the last corner and they'd stretch away from me on the straight," he explained. "There is nobody bad on the brakes so you can't catch it up really. You can chip away and chip away but the times I got close they were side-by-side and it was like a wall for me. And I wasn't prepared to take two of them out in my first MotoGP with sixth place in the bag."

Toseland thus finished his first MotoGP race in a strong sixth - one place ahead of team-mate Colin Edwards, less than a second behind Rossi and having set the fifth fastest lap of the race.

"I'm a bit emotionally drained to be fair but what you learn in 22 laps around these guys is priceless and I can't wait for Jerez," said the #52. "To start off with this result is just great for me. I've realised now that with everybody's support, which I'm getting from the Tech 3 team, Yamaha and Michelin, it is possible to be competitive. To finish just behind Valentino in my very first MotoGP race is surreal."

Team manager Herve Poncharal was delighted with the debut performance of his new team line-up.

"It was a great way to start the championship," said the Frenchman. "The highlight of the weekend was our two riders on the front row which was a very emotional moment and something you dream of to start the championship. It didn't happen to us since 2002 with Olivier Jacque and Shinya Nakano at the Sachsenring.

"We had great expectations but we knew it would be difficult to get on the rostrum. James showed an incredible fighting spirit and he made a made really aggressive move on Jorge. The whole race he was losing a bit in some parts and catching back to Valentino and he ended up very, very close to beating him. Colin had a great and steady race also and I'd have settled for sixth and seventh before the first race."

Poncharal also confirmed that, as previously reported on, his team will get the more powerful pneumatic-valve M1 engines by round three, at Estoril.

"We know the new engine is coming in Estoril and it won't be such a handicap in Jerez [next time out] on a track without a long straight. Michelin showed great potential and we look forward with a lot of confidence to Jerez," he concluded.