Dani Pedrosa came into the Valencia season finale facing his worst ever MotoGP season in terms of race wins and lowest championship position since his rookie 2006 season.
The Repsol Honda rider had only taken one victory from the previous 16 rounds, compared with two wins in every other MotoGP season, and was sitting fourth in the championship - the lowest he has been since fifth in his rookie 990cc year.
But everything fell into place for the fast but frequently injured Spaniard in front of his home fans on Sunday, with pole sitter and third in the championship Casey Stoner crashing out before the race had even begun - leaving Pedrosa to claim a lights to flag victory.
In doing so, Dani vaulted ahead of Stoner by 14 points to match his 2008 ranking of third, behind Fiat Yamaha riders Valentino Rossi and Jorge Lorenzo, whom Pedrosa comfortably beat in Sunday's race.
“It's really great to finish off the season with a win, especially here in front of my home fans,” said Pedrosa. “I was waiting on the grid with my visor up and I was looking to the side for Casey to arrive, but the marshal in front of me was walking to the side and I was thinking: 'Where is he going!' So I assumed something had happened to Casey on the warm-up lap.
“In the first few laps I had to be careful because you have to warm up the tyres here, especially on the right hand side. But once that was done, we maintained a good pace and kept focused. In the last laps, the wind was strong and it would have been easy to make a mistake, but I was able to control the gap to Valentino and take this win.
“I was thinking back to Laguna Seca where Valentino closed the gap a lot, and I also knew that Jorge was catching Valentino too, so I just kept pushing. I'm very happy for the team because we struggled quite a lot in practice here, and yet we were able to win in front of all the Spanish fans. I'd like to thank the fans too.
“To get third in the championship is not what I was expecting but it's a nice surprise, even though Casey wasn't in the race. This season has not been easy and tomorrow's testing will be important so that we can start 2010 in the best possible shape. This gives us a good start towards that,” he concluded.
With team-mate Andrea Dovizioso winning at Donington Park, 2009 was Honda's most successful 800cc season in terms of race wins.