Jorge Lorenzo has taken the MotoGP title lead by claiming his and Yamaha's first victory of the 2009 season at Motegi on Sunday - the young Spaniard beating team-mate Valentino Rossi in only his second race on Bridgestone tyres.
Lorenzo had finished a distant third in Qatar two weeks' ago, but emerged strongest during a 24 lap race that marked only the second dry track session of the Japanese Grand Prix weekend.
The first had been during Friday free practice, with every session thereafter either wet or cancelled due to the rain.
But the sun was shining strongly as Lorenzo slotted into fifth through turn one - behind Rossi, Chris Vermeulen, Dani Pedrosa and Casey Stoner - and the #99 had climbed to third by the end of the lap.
Lorenzo demoted Pedrosa from second on lap three, and then steadily closed the two-second gap to Rossi. The 22-year-old showed no nerves as he attacked the Italian superstar, making his second overtaking attempt stick then remaining wheel perfect to the flag.
Rossi stumbled slightly while following Lorenzo, and became entangled in a battle with Pedrosa, before closing back to within 1.3sec of Lorenzo at the chequered flag.
"First of all I just want to thank my team, my Mum, Dad and whole family, my friends and all the team workers. Also Yamaha, as it is their home race,” said a slightly surprised Lorenzo, after claiming his second ever MotoGP victory.
“I did a bad start, but I recovered the distance to Valentino. I had to ride the best I could to the end to stay ahead. It is good to win!”
"We didn't expect a victory, maybe we were just thinking about the podium, so I'm extremely happy,” admitted team manager Daniele Romagnoli. “We did a great job on Friday and I think that was the key because we worked a lot around the harder tyre and in the end that was the good one. With the information and the data we collected, today we just had to do some fine-tuning to the bike and it has brought us this special victory.”
Lorenzo now heads for his home Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez with a one point lead over Rossi - second in both rounds so far this year - with Qatar winner Stoner three points behind Lorenzo after finishing fourth on Sunday.
“Jerez will be a great battle, like today it will be a big show and so I am looking forward to that event,” declared Romagnoli.