Valentino Rossi claimed his first race win of the year at Jerez on Sunday, and leapt to the top of the points standings on his Fiat Yamaha when the 30-year-old Italian clubbed down three younger rivals one by one.
Rossi started from fourth on the grid, and held that position as the packed streamed around the 2.75-mile Jerez circuit, with Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) leading from Casey Stoner (Marlboro Ducati) and Jorge Lorenzo (Fiat Yamaha).
Lorenzo, who had looked so fierce during the weekend with a blazing pole position, was the first to have his day soured, when Rossi passed the championship leader on lap two.
This left Rossi just over a second behind Stoner, but with one of his curious leg-out manoeuvres under braking, he sliced under the Australian. Stoner fought back in front, but was rapidly retaken.
Rossi was now a distant 1.229s behind Pedrosa, a seemingly impossible gap to cut – even with 20 laps remaining - given the way that the Spaniard was peeling the RC212V immaculately around the Andalusian terrain.
But Rossi then produced one of his notorious acts of whittling away at time – a hundedth here, a tenth there – that so often grinds down the willpower of the young ones.
By lap 14 the gap was down to 0.831s – and on lap 17 Rossi was close enough to strike. Sure enough, at the Nieto curves where he had scalped Stoner, he powered out of the left-hander with a quicker exit and cut under Pedrosa on the right-hander.
Job done. Young ones crushed again. The King heads the points table. Almost to underline the point, Lorenzo dropped his Yamaha on lap 23 of the 27.
Rossi eventually won by 2.7 seconds from Pedrosa, with Stoner third and Randy de Puniet enjoying a great ride on the LCR Honda in fourth place.
Marco Melandri (Hayate Kawasaki) won the best scrap in the race, when he stole fifth from Loris Capirossi (Rizla Suzuki) and Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha).
James Toseland (Tech 3 Yamaha) got off the grid in 16th place, but climbed to 13th place by the finish, ahead of Alex de Angelis (Gresini Honda)
1. Valentino Rossi ITA Fiat Yamaha Team 45min 18.557 sec
2. Dani Pedrosa SPA Repsol Honda Team 45min 21.257 sec
3. Casey Stoner AUS Ducati Marlboro Team 45min 29.064 sec
4. Randy de Puniet FRA LCR Honda MotoGP 45min 50.450 sec
5. Marco Melandri ITA Hayate Racing Team 45min 51.685 sec
6. Loris Capirossi ITA Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 45min 52.685 sec
7. Colin Edwards USA Monster Yamaha Tech 3 45min 52.978 sec
8. Andrea Dovizioso ITA Repsol Honda Team 45min 53.182 sec
9. Toni Elias SPA San Carlo Honda Gresini 46min 1.246 sec
10. Chris Vermeulen AUS Rizla Suzuki MotoGP 46min 3.740 sec
11. Sete Gibernau SPA Grupo Francisco Hernando 46min 6.749 sec
12. Yuki Takahashi JPN Scot Racing Team MotoGP 46min 10.432 sec
13. James Toseland GBR Monster Yamaha Tech 3 46min 12.240 sec
14. Alex de Angelis RSM San Carlo Honda Gresini 46min 12.498 sec
15. Nicky Hayden USA Ducati Marlboro Team 46min 19.794 sec
16. Niccolo Canepa ITA Pramac Racing 46min 29.453 sec