Jorge Lorenzo produced a masterful display of wet and dry weather riding to seize back the MotoGP world championship lead in Le Mans.
The Spaniard’s second win in the last three races moved him to the top of the world championship standings with Fiat Yamaha team-mate enduring a nightmare race to finish 16th and Aussie Casey Stoner finishing only fifth.
The top four in the championship are split by just nine-points with only a point splitting Lorenzo, Rossi and Stoner after an enthralling 28-lap race.
On a wet track at the start, Lorenzo powered into a lead he would not surrender as he made up for the crushing disappointment of crashing out of his home race in Jerez earlier this month.
Lorenzo stayed out on wet Bridgestone tyres longer than anybody else as he built a massive lead of 33 seconds by lap 12.
He came into change to a YZR-M1 fitted on slick tyres a lap later and on his return to the track he still had a 7.3s advantage over the superb Marco Melandri on the Hayate branded factory Kawasaki ZX-RR.
As Lorenzo waited for his slicks to get up to optimum working temperature, Melandri slashed his lead to just 4.4s on lap 15, but the 22-year-old was able to cruise away from the Hayate rider to dominate the closing stages.
A jubilant Lorenzo said: “Never in all my dreams did I imagine this situation – winning the race and leading the championship. This season I have been much more calm and careful and so I was really upset after the crash in Jerez because I didn’t expect it!
"After Jerez I was thinking only bad things in my mind but after a few days I concentrated on this race. Today has made up for that though. I had a very good pace with both types of tyre and the strategy of our team worked perfectly. If in Jerez I rode so badly in the race, here I rode like I know and also with the rain tyre I was really convinced in myself.
"I felt happy to stay out on the wet tyres for such a long time and in the end I think we changed at exactly the right time for our race; there was some luck on our side but we were also strong, calm and careful and this paid off. It was the first time in my life that I’ve had to change bikes during the race and I was very nervous, but it went smoothly and I was able to rejoin in the lead.
"I’m sorry for Valentino because it was bad luck to crash, but now we are nearly on the same points and it seems like the championship is starting again! I want to thank my team because they were very clever today, I’m so happy to be here and to have won a third MotoGP race.”
Melandri was almost speechless after his amazing performance on the Hayate as he beat Dani Pedrosa to third by just over two seconds.
Repsol Honda rider Pedrosa had produced his own stunning display after he’d pitted after only five laps for his RC212V shod with Bridgestone slick tyres.
On lap 12 he trailed team-mate Andrea Dovizioso by a massive 14 seconds after the Italian had gambled on staying out on full wet tyres until that point.
The Spaniard then embarked on a brilliant surge, starting the final lap just 0.4s adrift of Dovizioso.
His final lap was 0.9s faster than Dovizioso’s as Pedrosa claimed an unlikely third to force himself right into world title contention after four races.
The triple world champion said: “This is a fantastic podium for me because the conditions were very difficult today and in the end we came through it with a good result.
"At the start of the race it really wasn’t clear what the best thing to do was. In the first few laps in the wet my pace wasn’t very fast and I was going backwards and losing positions.
"So I decided to stop quite early and change to the machine with dry tyres - at the same time as Rossi. On the first lap out of the pits on the slick tyres he crashed in front of me and this made me even more nervous about the conditions. I really couldn’t see where it was wet and where it was dry so my lap times at this stage were not good - something like 1m 55s.
"I lost a lot of time at this stage. But then towards the end of the race when I had sufficient temperature in my tyres I was able to get into a rhythm and go faster and faster - eventually closing the gap on Andrea.
"In the end I caught and passed him on the last lap - really close to the finish. He was riding very well and made it hard to pass, but I was able to get the place, so I’m happy with podium today.”