The injured Dani Pedrosa was amazed to keep the Yamahas in sight and take third place in the Japanese Grand Prix, marking his return to the podium after a winter riddled with injuries.
Crashes in Germany and Australia last year left Pedrosa struggling with wrist and knee injuries, and he required winter surgery to correct the latter. Lingering discomfort from the operation then brought his first winter test to an early end, before a massive testing crash at Qatar caused further damage to both wounds and sidelined him for a month.
He arrived at the Losail season-opener only just out of plaster and with only two and a half days of pre-season running under his belt, and unsurprisingly struggled for race pace.
But at Motegi today Pedrosa charged into second on the first lap and then took a highly competitive third after a long dice with Valentino Rossi.
The Spaniard was stunned that he had been able to fight with the leaders throughout, having expected to fall back as his physical condition faded.
"I'm very tired, but the race was really, really good, more than I expected," Pedrosa told the BBC.
"I made a very good start and I was there (at the front) in the first laps. I thinking maybe I could stay there for three laps, but then it was four, then it was five, and finally the whole race.
"For the whole race I like 'I don't believe it, I'm still here, I'm still here - so close to the Yamahas'. I'm really very happy.
"It's been a long and very difficult time for me, but this podium will be good for me."