Alvaro Bautista said he felt in such good shape in the Portuguese Grand Prix that he could have fought for a top-10 finish had he not gone off the road avoiding Karel Abraham's crashed Cardion Ducati on the second lap.
Suzuki rider Bautista made a remarkable return at Estoril six weeks after breaking his leg in a Qatar crash. He finished 13th and last, but said if he had not lost touch with the field by taking a detour through the gravel to miss Abraham, it could have been a much more competitive result.
"I have some mixed emotions today," Bautista admitted. "I am happy because I made the target of finishing the race, but after a decent start and getting into a good position early on, I am really disappointed that I had to run off the track because Abraham crashed in front of me.
"I tried to take a different line, but I had to go into the gravel and I lost too much time from the main group. I did the rest of the race alone and okay, we finished, but I would have liked to have battled with other riders."
Bautista reckoned he was at least as quick as the riders who finished in 10th through 12th positions.
"I think it was possible to fight with Toni [Elias], Loris [Capirossi] and Randy [de Puniet] today - or maybe even better!" he said. "The first target was to finish the race, so we have to be happy about that and now I have 14 days to improve the strength and power in my leg and go to Le Mans in a much better condition than I came here. My body and my mind are now more prepared for racing, so I am really looking forward to the next race."
Team boss Paul Denning felt Bautista had done a remarkable job, though he suspected it would be the Catalunya Grand Prix in June before his rider was truly back to full strength.
"For Alvaro to complete race distance and at a far more competitive pace than we could have expected when we were in the hospital in Qatar six weeks ago, is just incredible," Denning said. "The race itself turned into a fitness test after he ran off the track because of Abraham's crash, but finally we also got a bit of luck as Alvaro was able to avoid all the carnage around him in the first lap as several other riders crashed.
"His commitment to get back as quickly as he has done has been inspirational. Le Mans is the next step and when we arrive in Catalunya we will be pushing to the maximum again."