Valentino Rossi said his first podium finish in Ducati colours was particularly satisfying because he had had such a tough start to his career with the Italian firm.
Having struggled so far this season both with fitness following his 2010 shoulder issues and to adapt to the Desmosedici, Rossi came through from ninth on the grid to finish third at Le Mans today, narrowly missing out on second after a dice with Andrea Dovizioso.
"I'm so happy – the first podium with Ducati is a great emotion, especially because I arrived there after a difficult period when we were struggling a lot with my physical condition, and also to understand the bike more," he said.
"But it's becoming better and better, and the race today was very, very fun. I did quite a good start, some overtaking, and I hooked my bike to Dovi and [Jorge] Lorenzo. We had a different setting and I was faster than the rest of the weekend.
"At the end it was great, because I did some good laps to go with Jorge and I was able to overtake him. But then Dovi arrived, so another battle with him.
"We are going in a good way but still in some places we lose a bit too much. When I tried to overtake Dovi I thought it was the last lap, but we had another one – I wasn't sure. But anyway it was difficult and congratulations to Dovi."
Rossi was jubilant on the podium and admitted that the feeling was almost as good as a win.
"This third place is not like a victory, but similar," he said.