MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi was left with 'no grip and no chance' during Sunday's Portuguese Grand Prix - almost halving his 2009 world championship advantage from 30 to 18 points with three rounds to go.
Rossi, who had finished on the podium in all nine previous Estoril appearances and was making his 100th Yamaha start, dropped from second on the grid to fourth by the end of lap one, where he remained to the finish.
Rossi had struggled to match team-mate and title rival Jorge Lorenzo's pace all weekend and the Italian took the chequered flag a huge 23.4sec behind the race winner, but the biggest surprise was the size of his defeat at the hands of Casey Stoner and Dani Pedrosa.
Stoner, returning to MotoGP after a three race absence, put his Ducati 17 seconds clear of Rossi's Fiat Yamaha for second, while Pedrosa and the final podium position were over 13 seconds in front of the Italian.
"It was a very difficult race for me,” confessed Rossi. “I was never able to be fast because I did not have enough grip in the rear and our tyre did not work well, but I think it was more a problem of setting.
“After a few laps I was in great difficulties and I immediately understood that this was not going to be 'our' race. Throughout the practice sessions I had some problems but I thought that today I would be able to at least stay with Stoner and Pedrosa, but they made another step forward for the race and then there was no chance for me.
“On Friday I was three tenths off the pace and unfortunately this stayed the same all weekend and in the race today. Here in Estoril we struggled last year as well, so it might be that, with our setting, the rear tyre gets very hot and this causes a lack of grip.
“It is a pity that I am off the podium, but we have three more races and they are three great tracks. We must think race by race and we must work to understand what the problem was today in order to make sure that we fix it in time for Phillip Island,” he concluded.
Team manager Davide Brivio promised a detailed investigation into Rossi's race day woes, which left the eight time world champion shrugging his shoulders as he dismounted from his M1.
"In reality, we weren't really racing today,” said Brivio. “Valentino experienced some problems, which meant that he was never able to make the tyres work well and he was unable to be competitive.
“We will go into these problems in detail in our technical debrief later this afternoon. Valentino was bravo to finish the race in a very difficult situation, but he knew that taking points was key and we got 13 very important points here.”
Sunday's race marked the fourth time this season that Lorenzo has beaten Rossi when both have finished.