Nicky Hayden rode his luck to claim his first MotoGP podium since last September in a crash strewn Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez yesterday.
The factory Ducati rider would have finished way down the order but Valentino Rossi, Casey Stoner, Marco Simoncelli and Ben Spies all crashed out in front of him during an incident-packed 27-lap race.
And the 2006 world champion looked destined for fourth when compatriot Colin Edwards' Monster Yamaha Tech 3 YZR-M1 broke down at the start of the final lap to give Hayden his first podium since the Motorland Aragon race last season.
Hayden, who only just managed to fend off a late challenge from San Carlo Gresini Honda rider Hiroshi Aoyama, said: "Obviously at the end the tyres were finished. At the start our bike was working really good and it made me use the tyres more than some of the other bikes. But at the beginning Valentino and I had a lot of traction. But it was just about concentrating. The track was changing in every corner. Part of the track you had some rain while other parts no rain and the tyres were changing and so were the lines. I was trying to find grip, shifting in different places and using a gear higher in some corners. It wasn't necessarily pretty because my last laps were so slow and we held on and I'm the podium and I'm pretty happy about it. It has not been an easy start to the season and I'll take a podium every way I can get it. Hopefully it will be the shot in the arm we need."
Asked what he made of the incident involving team-mate Rossi and Stoner at the first corner on lap eight following a collision instigated by the Italian running in too hot on the brakes.
Hayden said: "I saw he was pushing hard and I knew he was going to the front, you could see he was happy in the rain before the race. Our bike was really good at the start and sometimes we chew up the tyres more. That's not new so I think he wanted to get to the front and go and get a gap and see how long his tyres would last."
For a full nine-page report on a dramatic Jerez MotoGP race, see the April 6 issue of Motor Cycle News.