Ducati's Casey Stoner
took his second MotoGP victory of the season, in as many starts, at Japan on Sunday - and in doing so joined motorcycle legends Kenny Roberts, Geoff Duke
and John Surtees
on 22 premier-class wins.
Riding in front of his future Honda bosses, Stoner passed current factory RCV rider Andrea Dovizioso
within a few corners of the start, then rode to a near four-second victory over the Italian.
"This win feels great. I could have never imagined when I began my first season in Grand Prix at 16 years of age that I would reach this level and all I can say is that it is an honour to be alongside such great names," said Stoner, now joint eighth in the all-time winners list.
"I have taken all my MotoGP wins with Ducati and it is down to their fantastic support, hard work and above all their belief in me that this has been possible.
"Once again we put in maximum effort all weekend here to find some stability in the hard braking and acceleration zones at this circuit, which has been a massive challenge for us.
"We tried something in warm-up this morning that didn't quite work so we took a bit of a lucky dip for the race and it paid off. Once I got out in front I knew we had a chance to win but it wasn't without fighting for it because Andrea rode a great race to push me all the way to the last lap.
"It's a big win for me, especially because it's my first at this circuit and that means a lot," added Stoner, who wrapped up the 2007 world title at Motegi.
The next best Ducati rider on Sunday was Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden
Team manager Vittoriano Guareschi was impressed by Stoner and his crew kept working to find a set-up.
"After two really tough days of practice we couldn't really have expected a race like this so my compliments to Casey and the team," he said. "He had a great race today and set an incredible pace from the start to the end, without making a single mistake despite some intense pressure from Dovi.
"Congratulations to everybody in the garage because we kept cool heads yesterday at a time when it would have been easy to panic and make the wrong decisions."