After 18 races without a MotoGP victory, Dani Pedrosa
and Honda held off Valentino Rossi
by just 0.344sec for a surprise victory in Sunday's US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca.
Pedrosa, the only Honda rider to win 800cc races, had last taken victory in round seven of the 2008 world championship and suffered a series of injuries in the year since - most recently at the Italian Grand Prix, in late May, when he cracked a thigh.
With most attention on title contenders Jorge Lorenzo, Rossi and Casey Stoner
- who had qualified on the front row despite heavy falls for Lorenzo and Stoner - Pedrosa got one of his frequent superb starts to rocket from fourth to first.
By the halfway point of the 32 laps the Repsol Honda rider was 3.3sec ahead of Rossi, Stoner and Lorenzo. But the fight for second was heating up, with Lorenzo passing Stoner into the final turn with ten laps to go, then hunting down Rossi.
Lorenzo, who dislocated his right collarbone and fractured a bone in his right foot in his huge qualifying highside, attempted to repeat his Stoner pass on Rossi with five laps remaining, but his M1 began bucking as he hit the brakes and he was fortunate to keep control.
The Spaniard ran wide, giving team-mate Rossi vital breathing room. The top three positions thus looked decided, but Pedrosa suddenly began losing chunks out of his lead, which dropped to under two seconds with four laps to go.
Pedrosa was still an apparently safe 1.5sec clear of Rossi as the last lap began - but as he dropped through the Corkscrew for the final time Rossi suddenly appeared just a few bike-lengths behind him.
Rossi's last lap turned out to be 1.2sec faster than Pedrosa's and the Italian, who overtook Lorenzo at the final turn of the Catalan Grand Prix, couldn't resist an attempt to snatch victory from Pedrosa into the final hairpin.
But the reigning six time MotoGP world champion was just a little too far behind and Pedrosa was able to claim his seventh MotoGP victory, while Lorenzo's miraculous performance was rewarded with his seventh podium of the year, having crossed the line a mere 1.9sec from victory.