World champion Valentino Rossi
has 'surfed' to victory in soaking conditions at the inaugural Chinese Motorcycle Grand Prix, the Yamaha star riding faultlessly during an action packed thriller headlined by a heroic ride by replacement rider Olivier Jacque - who recorded his and Kawasaki's best ever MotoGP result after fighting his way through the field to frighten Rossi at the finish.
As many had feared - and some had hoped - after a largely dry Saturday, rain returned with a vengeance for race day at Shanghai, producing a scattering of 'loose canons' among established frontrunners Sete Gibernau, Alex Barros
and Valentino Rossi
during the morning warm-up.
Pole sitter Gibernau would set the pace during the 20-minute session - but his nearest rival was MotoGP returnee Jurgen van den Goorbergh! The Dutchman had qualified just 19th in his replacement ride for Konica Minolta Honda's Makoto Tamada, but well and truly shone through the showers this morning.
Meanwhile, 12th on the grid Troy Bayliss took third ahead of Camel Honda team-mate Barros, with Rossi fifth and 16th on the grid Ruben Xaus sixth. Repsol Honda's Max Biaggi, starting his 200th GP today, also did his hopes of radically improving on his frustrating 14th place grid position no harm by claiming seventh this morning.
When the grid lined up for the start - led by a top six of Gibernau, Marco Melandri, Loris Capirossi, John Hopkins, Nicky Hayden
and Rossi - the rain was still falling heavily and as the green lights went out it was Hopkins who got a jump on the field into turn one, followed by Melandri, Gibernau, Roberts, Hayden, Rossi, Elias, Capirossi, Biaggi, Bayliss, Jacque and Rolfo.
Not to be outdone by his young team-mate, Kenny Roberts
made it a Suzuki one-two by carving confidently past the Movistar Honda duo a few turns later - and then took the lead as the field made their way onto the back straight for the first time. Soon after, with Hopkins fading slightly, Rossi moved into third... just ahead of Toni Elias!
The MotoGP rookie had made a stunning start and was riding like a man possessed but, like Barros, would later be given a ride-through penalty for apparently jumping the start.
The first signal for which was given on lap 3 of 22 but Elias - understandably given the spray - initially struggled to see it, although both he and Barros would eventually serve their 'time', and go on to claim 14th and 11th at the finish.
Meanwhile, by the start of lap 3, Rossi and Roberts had begun to break away from the field, leaving a frantic battle for third in their wake. Within that pack were Jacque and van den Goorbergh who were both already making their presence felt as they moved up the order together, holding eighth and ninth.