Valentino Rossi has won his ninth race from eleven 2005 starts after taking victory in the Czech Republic Grand Prix at Brno - the Italian superstar emerging on top after a thrilling battle with arch-rival Sete Gibernau, which came to a premature end with just a few corners to go when Gibernau's Movistar Honda ground to a halt.
Qualifying had seen Gibernau boost his hopes of a much needed first 2005 victory by taking a record breaking - and hard fought - pole position by just 0.047secs from fellow Honda rider Nicky Hayden, with Loris Capirossi
marking a Ducati revival with third.
That reduced world champion Rossi to fourth and a second row start, where he would be joined by Marco Melandri
and Carlos Checa while Alex Barros, John Hopkins, Colin Edwards
and Max Biaggi completed a top ten covered by 0.8secs.
Morning warm-up had seen Gibernau confirm his man-to-beat form with the fastest time by 0.4secs, while Suzuki's Kenny Roberts
- who sat out most of qualifying through illness - and Yamaha star Edwards claimed a surprise second and third, with Hayden sixth, Capirossi fourth and Rossi fifth.
All of which, combined with the fast and flowing nature of the superb Brno circuit, was expected to mean a thrilling and unpredictable 22 lap fight for round eleven of the world championship - with a cool overcast sky, which had already produced the odd light shower, adding to the pre-race tension.
When the red lights went out, Gibernau converted his pole into a turn one lead while Melandri, Rossi and Hayden went bar-to-bar for second - Rossi emerging at the head of the trio as they charged towards the first of Brno's many high-speed 'S' bends with Melandri, Hayden, Hopkins, Capirossi, Checa, Barros and Edwards in close pursuit.
Rossi then surprised many onlookers, and not least Gibernau, by forcing his way inside the Catalan with a tough move to take the lead less than half a lap later - Valentino squeezing inside through the opening part of the stadium section, but then making slight contact with the #15 as their paths crossed on the apex of the exit.
Gibernau would settle into second for the next two laps before mounting a brief counter attack on Rossi into the final turn - the #46 slipstreaming back into the lead into turn one. However, Gibernau again fought back and outbraked the Italian into the fast chicane that followed.
The top two would then remain locked together, in that order, up to the halfway mark - by which time Hayden and Barros had found a way past Melandri, with Capirossi the next man seeking to overcome a defensive Marco, while Edwards and Biaggi were an unthreatening seventh and eighth.