Valentino Rossi was delighted to take fourth on his return to MotoGP at the Sachsenring - and believes a podium finish is a realistic aim in next weekend's Laguna Seca race.
Six weeks after breaking his right leg in a practice crash at Mugello, Rossi made a surprise early return for the German Grand Prix and was close to the pace all weekend - qualifying fifth and finishing fourth, with Casey Stoner only snatching third from him at the final corner.
"I've never been this happy for a fourth place," Rossi told Italia1. "I'm happy with the way it has gone, and it was a great battle at the end. I've enjoyed myself."
Rossi felt the only area where he lost out was through rustiness in the early laps.
"Unfortunately I still lack some feeling with the new tires," he said. "In both starts I lost too much time, and especially in the second race I lost time with [Andrea] Dovizioso unfortunately, otherwise [Jorge] Lorenzo wouldn't have been too far either.
"We've done a great job. I was in good form today, obviously my leg and shoulder hurt a bit. However, I could ride well."
He expects to be faster still in the next round in America, where his target is a podium finish.
"It's been a good step forward, so next Sunday at Laguna we'll try to get on the podium," said the Yamaha rider. "It's a track I like, I've gone well there in the last years. I hope to be even more in shape with an extra week."
Rossi and Stoner swapped places more than half a dozen times as they fought over third in the closing stages in Germany, before Stoner eventually got in front as they came onto the pits straight for the last time.
"Evidently I'm great motivation for everyone, because when Stoner saw me he started running super quick, so from the next race I'll dress like another rider!" Rossi joked. "It was a great battle with Stoner, congratulations to him. If it happened the other way around he would surely have cried like he did after Laguna Seca [in 2008], but this is racing. I'm happy because he was smiling at the end.
"It was good to watch too because we fought like crazy. I think I did the second quickest lap of the race, and when I caught up with Stoner, Lorenzo wasn't too far off, it would have been nice to try to catch up to him too."