Reigning 250cc world champion Marco Simoncelli won his third race of the season after a close battle with Mattia Pasini at Brno in the Czech Republic on Sunday.
The two Italians exchanged the lead for much of the second half of the race, with Simoncelli just 0.187sec ahead as the last lap began. The Metis Gilera rider then pushed hard to successfully break the challenge of Pasini, who will test for the Pramac Ducati MotoGP team on Monday.
Alvaro Bautista fought his way forwards from seventh on lap one and was almost within touch of the Italians with five laps to go, but a scare prompted the Aspar Aprilia rider to back off and settle for third - in the knowledge that he would gain ground on title leader Hiroshi Aoyama.
The Scot Honda rider led in the early stages of the race but had dropped back to fourth by the halfway mark, when he remained at the chequered flag. Aoyama, 15 points in front of Bautista at the start of the race, is now 12 points ahead of the Spaniard, while Simoncelli is within 32 points of the Japanese with six rounds to go.
Simoncelli celebrated with a huge burnout, something that won't be seen after the MotoGP race due to the new rule limiting engine changes.
“I started with a hard tyre and my bike was perfect in the second half of the race. I pushed hard on the last lap and succeeded in getting a small gap over Mattia. I am very happy with this race!” said Simoncelli.
Bautista made an embarrassing mistake when he 'looped' his Aspar Aprilia while pulling a post-race wheelie, causing considerable damage to the bike but fortunately no physical harm to the rider, who caught a life back to parc ferme.
“I tried to do a wheelie and instead I did a back flip!” said a smiling Bautista. “Anyway, I'm happy with the race. It's been a difficult weekend for me and I had a lot of problems in practice. We changed the suspension for the race. I wasn't sure how it would work but I saw that I could go faster and faster. I tried to catch Mattia and Marco, but with six laps to go my rear tyre began to slide a lot and it was impossible to follow them. These are important points for the championship and it's been a good day, except after the race! Anyway I am happy.”
Sixth on the grid had been Roberto Locatelli's best qualifying performance since 2006 and the 35-year-old former 125cc world champion made an early impact on the race by taking the lead from Aoyama on the opening lap.
The Italian continued to lead until Aoyama moved back in front on lap 3 of 20. The Metis Gilera rider eventually claimed a solid fifth at the flag.
Home star Karel Abraham was eliminated in a first turn clash with Thomas Luthi.
Race results - Brno:
1. Simoncelli (Gilera)
2. Pasini (Aprilia) +0.684sec
3. Bautista (Aprilia) +4.381sec
4. Aoyama (Honda) +8.746sec
5. Locatelli (Gilera) +9.721sec
6. de Rosa (Honda) +10.870sec
7. Barbera (Aprilia) +15.639sec
8. Cluzel (Aprilia) +18.411sec
9. di Meglio (Aprilia) +18.563sec
10. Faubel (Honda) +19.958sec