Ben Spies stormed to a stunning debut MotoGP podium finish at the Silverstone circuit yesterday.
The Texan produced an outstanding late attack to claim a dramatic third on the last lap after an epic dice with fellow American Nicky Hayden.
Starting only his ninth MotoGP race, the record-breaking reigning World Superbike champion made one place on the opening lap to slot into a menacing sixth position.
He was lucky not to be taken out on the first lap when Marco Melandri lost the front-end of his San Carlo Gresini Honda machine at Brooklands Corner.
And the Monster Yamaha Tech 3 rider quickly found himself bumped back down to seventh having been unable to keep a fast starting Marco Simoncelli at bay.
Spies though quickly settled into a fast pace and claimed sixth back from Italian Simoncelli on the sixth lap.
He then continued his impressive surge to dispose of struggling Spaniard Dani Pedrosa on lap nine.
The 25-year-old then hunted down the pack battling it out for second that included Andrea Dovizioso, LCR Honda rider Randy de Puniet and compatriot Nicky Hayden.
Spies’ podium attack began in earnest on lap 17 when he was able to move by de Puniet.
That set him up perfectly for a late fight for the rostrum with former world champion Hayden.
Spies attacked at Stowe Corner on the final lap but was unable to make his bold overtake stick.
But just as he prepared to mount a second challenge on Hayden at the tight Village Corner, the Kentucky rider ran wide at Abbey and Spies gleefully moved by.
He survived a nervy final five corners to claim a stunning maiden podium that prompted jubilant scenes from the French-based Monster Yamaha Tech 3 squad.
The triple American superbike champion, who had suffered a big crash in Saturday morning’s free practice session, said: “I didn’t expect to get my first podium so quickly.
"I got a decent start but once I got by Dani (Pedrosa) and Simoncelli. I just tried to stay on the back of the group for the battle for the podium. One I realised I could stay in contention I just tried to save the tyre as much as I could and it all worked out.
"The last few laps I pushed as hard as I could and made some good passes I’m also pretty happy about it too and this is good for my confidence. We’ve got to keep pushing as hard as we can.”
Spies admitted it had been tough to get the better of Hayden, who frustratingly had to settle for fourth spot for the fourth time in five races.
Spies added: “It was difficult because at the start of the race I knew I had some strong spots on the brakes but we lacked a bit coming off the corners so it was a bit hard to set up the pass.
"But I got a really good drive onto the back straight and tried to pass him at Stowe Corner but he came back by. On the next straight I managed to get by him and then had to ride quite defensively on the last part of the lap to hold it.
"Both of us were on the edge but I had to go for the podium and pull the pin and it worked out. I kept the bike upright and got a podium. Lorenzo is not really in our race right now but it was good to see where we were with Dovi and Nicky and being able to watch a bit.
"I had some strong spots but some spots I had to work on in the middle of the race. I followed and learned and did some things different with the bike. I tried to push where I knew where I was strong in the last few laps.
"It will be hard to duplicate this but right now I’ll it sink in and make the most of it. But on this day I can say I was the third best rider in the world and it is a good feeling.”
Spies said the ankle he aggravated in his practice crash had not been a big issue in the 20-lap race.
But X-rays at Silverstone did show a fracture that wasn’t clearly detected when he first suffered a painful blow to his ankle in a big practice crash at Le Mans.
“On the bike it is really not too bad. When the bike slides over some bumps or gets into a headshake I can feel it but I had an X-ray and could see a slight fracture still from Le Mans.
"Nothing can be done to fix it, just time. I’ll need a month before I can probably go running but on the bike it doesn’t bug me at all,“ added Spies.
Reflecting on his brilliant first podium, Spies said he would savour the moment but quickly move onto prepare himself for this weekend’s sixth round at the Assen circuit in Holland.
He added: “It hasn’t really sunken in. I don’t have the loudest personality in the paddock. With Valentino being out it is a different feeling but that’s racing. For me to know that it’s the best in the world to finish on the podium is cool.
"On this day I can say I was the third fastest guy in the world and it is a good feeling. Now we need to keep progressing and try and stay consistent.”