Kawasaki's substitute MotoGP rider, Jamie Hacking, brought his borrowed Ninja ZX-RR home in an impressive eleventh place on his premier class debut at Laguna Seca this afternoon.
The 37-year-old AMA Superbike star, deputising this weekend for injured compatriot John Hopkins, started today's 33-lap USGP from the last row of the grid, but was quick to make up places in the early stages of the race.
Hacking fought his way past Colin Edwards and Loris Capirossi on lap 12, then put in a pass on Toni Elias on the next lap to move into tenth place behind AMA Superbike rival, and good friend, Ben Spies.
The Hacker spent a number of laps looking for a way past his fellow countryman, until the Suzuki pilot looked back and realised just who it was putting him under pressure. To hold off Hacking, Spies was forced to set his fastest laps of the race, which was just enough to keep Kawasaki's newest MotoGP rider at bay.
Hacking looked all set to take a top ten finish in his debut MotoGP appearance, but a resurgent Toni Elias managed to squeeze past the three-time AMA champion in the closing stages of the race, to relegate him back to a still impressive 11th at the chequered flag.
Anthony West has struggled with a lack of feeling from the front of his Ninja ZX-RR all weekend, and despite set-up changes made ahead of this morning's warm-up session, West still lacked the confidence in the front grip to push hard in the race. The 27-year-old Kawasaki pilot eventually finished in 17th place, one lap down on race winner Valentino Rossi, bitterly disappointed with his whole Laguna weekend.
Jamie Hacking, "I'm thrilled! I didn't get the best of starts from the back of the grid, but if I'm honest I was little relieved to see everyone pulling away and leaving me to ride my own race early on. With a fairly clear track I was able to find a good rhythm on the bike, and I was soon lapping in the low 1'23s bracket. I fought my way up to Ben Spies, and I was just thinking to have a bit of a breather when he looked back and saw who was behind him. As soon as he saw it was me he upped the pace and managed to pull enough of a gap that I couldn't quite stay with him. The bike was working great, and the lap times were pretty consistent throughout the race, but then Toni Elias managed to work his way past me towards the end, which meant I just missed out on matching Roger Lee's tenth place finish from last year. Even so, I've really enjoyed my weekend as a MotoGP racer and I'd like to thank Kawasaki for giving me the opportunity. Everyone made me feel really welcome, and they are a great team to work with."