Valentino Rossi moved confidently to the top of the 2009 MotoGP World Championship by picking off all three of his title rivals in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.
The Italian, second in both Qatar and Japan, began round three from fourth on the grid and one point behind Fiat Yamaha team-mate Jorge Lorenzo, after losing out to the 21-year-old one week earlier at Motegi.
But Lorenzo's resistance lasted just one lap on Sunday before Rossi overtook the pole sitter for third position and set his sights on 2007 world champion Casey Stoner.
Stoner, winner of more 800cc races than any other rider - his most recent at the Qatar season opener - provided arguably Rossi's toughest opposition, and was the only rider to re-pass the #46 during Sunday's race.
Nevertheless, the Italian's second move stuck and - while Stoner concentrated on securing a career best third at the Desmosedici's bogey circuit - Rossi was left facing a 1.3sec gap to race leader Dani Pedrosa.
The 2007 title runner-up is at his most dangerous when left unattended at the front, and Rossi initially struggled to hunt down the Spaniard. The pair were almost even in terms of best lap time, but Rossi was more consistent and Pedrosa's advantage suddenly evaporated.
Rossi ultimately made his victory pass on lap 18 of 27 and confirmed his 98th career win by 2.7sec over Pedrosa at the chequered flag.
Afterwards, Rossi rejected claims that he had been sandbagging on Saturday, when he qualified 0.7sec behind Lorenzo.
“This is a wonderful victory because yesterday we were really quite worried,” he said. “I couldn't ride how I wanted to and it was very hard.
"We had to work all together to understand how to fix the problem and finally we made a big change to try to make the bike feel how I like in the corner, which worked, so I have to say a huge thank you to Jeremy [Burgess] and all my guys.