Anyone who said MotoGP was turning into somewhat of a bore-fest recently have had to eat their words this afternoon as the premier class race was a true flag-to-flag nail-biter with Valentino Rossi tasting victory champagne for the fourth time this season.
Valentino Rossi certainly didn’t have it all his own way though, dropping down the order from a third position start behind pole-man Nicky Hayden and second fastest Casey Stoner.
Dani Pedrosa was quick out of the blocks, squeezing his Repsol Honda from the second row of the grid to second position by turn one behind Casey Stoner.
It looked like Stoner and the Ducati could pull off one of their famous 2007 disappearing acts in the opening laps, attempting to stretch a lead. But it was Pedrosa who kept the 21-year-old Australian on a short leash, keeping himself and those behind him in contention.
Meanwhile, Valentino Rossi was clawing back time after one of his traditional bad starts, dropping behind Nicky Hayden, Marco Melandri and the two rookies of last year at the front.
The seven-time world champion made up time however, forcing tough moves on both Honda’s in the attempt to set after Pedrosa and Stoner.
With Valentino Rossi closing in, Dani Pedrosa made his move on Casey Stoner, forcing the championship leader out wide and straight into the hands of Rossi.
Behind them Nicky Hayden had fought off an early onslaught from Marco Melandri and John Hopkins and was churning in some hot laps, eventually taking the new lap record with a 1.37.493 on lap 13, bettering Rossi’s lap record of last year on the 990 by half a second.
Further down the pack Carlos Checa and Makoto Tamada circulated comfortably in seventh and eighth ahead a nine bike battle covered by just three seconds for the next places.
At the front the race had turned into a story of two pairs; Pedrosa and Rossi and Stoner and Hayden.
Valentino Rossi took the lead for a brief period, but as we’ve seen so many times in the past was happy to sit back, let Pedrosa do the work at the front and observe the Spaniards lines.
With six five laps to go Dani Pedrosa went into turn one too hot, gifting Rossi the lead. However, it was short-lived as Rossi made a similar mistake a few turns later to give the Repsol Honda rider the lead back.
Nicky Hayden ran into tyre problems in the closing stages after working so hard to close down Stoner, while the tussle at the front gave the Marlboro Ducati rider a glimpse of hope to get to the line first.
But it wasn’t meant to be, and Valentino Rossi and Dani Pedrosa went head-to-head for the 25 point maximum score.
With two laps to go the Fiat Yamaha rider dropped the hammer to try to break away from Pedrosa.
By the last corner on the final lap he had just enough of an advantage over Pedrosa, and Valentino Rossi took his first wins since Assen five races ago in June.
Later in the press conference Rossi dedicated his victory to Colin McRae, after the multiple World Rally Champion lost his life yesterday in a helicopter crash.
Further back, Makoto Tamada threw away what was easily going to be his best finish of the year, crashing out of the race with very few laps remaining.
Randy De Puniet and Alex Barros ended uneventful weekends with engine blow-ups and with Alex Hoffman and Kurtis Roberts both pulling out early on, just 14 bikes made it to the finish.
Casey Stoner’s third position was enough to leave him with a 76 point advantage over Valentino Rossi in the championship, meaning if he finishes in front of the Italian next time out in a points scoring position at Motegi he will claim the 2008 crown.
For more reaction to this weekend’s racing pick up next week’s copy of MCN, out on September 19.