After an early tussle - and a near miss - rookie Dani Pedrosa
disappeared into the distance to win Sunday's British Grand Prix, while two injured Italians took the fight for second down to the last corner.
Pedrosa had dominated practice and qualifying, making him by far the pre-race favourite, but the Repsol Honda rider lost out to the injured Marco Melandri
into turn one - and struggled to find a way past the Fortuna Honda rider in the early laps.
That allowed Rizla Suzuki's John Hopkins
to put pressure on the young Spaniard and, on lap 4 of 30, Dani made a big mistake while desperately trying to take the lead from Marco into the downhill Melbourne Hairpin. The 20-year-old got his factory RC211V completely sideways as he struggled to slow down, with his rear wheel locking and almost spitting the #26 off before he veered wide within inches of Melandri.
Fortunately, Pedrosa regained control and - although the mistake allowed Hopkins into second - Dani had only lost one second. As is his character, Pedrosa then took several laps to calmly regroup before outbraking Hopkins for second into the Fogarty Esses, with Melandri only a few bike lengths further ahead.
This time Pedrosa made no mistakes and, on lap 11, neatly slotted inside the Italian into the flowing McLeans right hander - then disappeared. As a sign of his advantage, Pedrosa set a new lap record on lap 13 with a time 0.45secs quicker than the next fastest race lap, set by Melandri.
But Melandri's best came on lap 28 of 30 - and with good reason: As the closing stages began Marco was locked in a thrilling battle with Valentino Rossi
for the runner-up spot, with the reigning world champion - riding with a fractured wrist - having climbed steadily up the order from 12th on the grid and just 10th at the end of lap 1.
Rossi had caught the then three-rider fight between Casey Stoner, Melandri and Kenny Roberts
with ten laps to go - and jumped past both Roberts and Melandri in one go after Marco lost the front on the kerbing through McLeans, and only remained on two wheels after an amazing save that in turn hindered Roberts.
Stoner and Roberts then faded in the closing stages, but Melandri and Rossi - despite their injuries - continued fighting flat out; repassing each other several times before the last lap began with Melandri still clinging determinedly to Rossi's rear wheel.
Melandri, brave on the brakes throughout the race, dived inside Rossi into the Fogarty Esses at the end of the back straight to take second position with just two corners, and then took a defensive inside line into the Melbourne Hairpin.