It's a half and half feeling for me after a race like that. When you lead until five laps to go, when you’re second with two corners to go … third probably is the lowest result you'd hope for, but it's been a good weekend for me here in Texas. I feel I'm back on track with where I should be after these first four races before we head back to Europe. So all in all, pretty happy.
I think I rode a fantastic race, I can't fault myself and I tried my best. Enea (Bastianini) came past me and because it'd been the first time I had someone in front of me all race, I got dragged in braking behind him a couple of times and lost time to Alex (Rins). It was game on for the last lap but I unfortunately didn't have much left for Alex, and down to third I went on the second-last corner.
Some disappointment, but it was good to be back up on the box again. It had been a rough start to 2022, but the bike broke down in Qatar and I finished fourth in the second race … OK, last weekend in Argentina was rough but we’re only four races in and we're on the podium already, so that's a positive. I'm up to seventh in the championship now and the season … we have a long way to go yet.
It was hard work out there and my face was about as red as my leathers afterwards. I tried my best to break away from the boys but they were pushing behind me, and I just made a couple of slight mistakes. The gap was up to 0.7, maybe 0.8 of a second and then I just made a little mistake at Turn 11, a couple of them actually. Enea was back on me and blitzed me down the straight.
I tried to be calm and sit behind him, but the next lap he went into that same corner deep and I followed him in. Nearly ended up in the car park! Then I heard the Suzuki next to me and I thought 'here we go, this is like last year here'. It was Joan (Mir) that time, Alex this time, but we had a nice clean battle to the end. I closed the line, it was a nice fight, but he fired it in deep at the second-last corner and that was me done.
If I knew what Enea was doing to the Ducati to get that little bit of extra performance, I'd do it! He's riding well, and when he comes past it looks effortless. He has a particular style where he sits central on the bike and his head goes on an angle, and you look at him and even though the bike looks like it's moving, he looks solid and stays there. It works because he's able to stay really firm on the bike. He's also a small bloke, so he's very fast on the straights. He stops it well too … pulling up an extra 10 kilos is a bit harder, I can tell you that. He is unreal with the way he puts the throttle down though, and he's able to ride it in a smooth, fast way. For tyre management, that's the best thing. If I could emulate his style … I'll keep studying.
The big unknown coming into this weekend was what state the track was going to be in, because it was pretty rough the last time we were here late last year with all the bumps caused by the F1 cars. But I was pleasantly surprised from Friday with how much work they'd done, and this is honestly such a great place when the track surface is good, so that definitely put a smile on my face. Normal COTA is the best COTA, you might say. There's still a few bumps and you still want a track to have some character, but compared to what it was ... I was having a ball. COTA is a place I really enjoy coming to, it's a pretty unique track on one of these bikes, so it was just what I needed to put a smile back on my face after Argentina.
My goal today was to get out front and put the laps together, so it was really nice to show the pace – for 16 laps anyway. We'll try to find the other four laps over the next week and head to Portugal. Still feels like it's a very open championship, it's such a long season and so much has happened already when you think I'm the 10th rider to get on the podium already and this was the fourth race. That says it all. It's wide open, and the real championship will start when we get back to Europe.