Valentino Rossi wrote his name into the record books by claiming Honda's 500th win today at Suzuka, in a race that will be remembered for the intense grudge match witnessed between Rossi and archrival Max Biaggi.
Biaggi, third on the grid, made a storming start to lead Capirossi into the first corner, with Nakano third ahead of Abe, McCoy and Roberts who had moved up from ninth, while Rossi languished at the tail end of the top ten.
Capirossi showed he was not prepared to follow his fellow Italian as he steamed inside Biaggi through the Esses, while Nakano also passed Biaggi soon after.
British Superbike runner-up Chris Walker took an early exit from his first 500cc Grand Prix after braking too late for the chicane and clashing with Cardoso. The Brit claimed full responsibility for the incident and later sportingly apologised to the Spaniard.
Lap 2 saw Alex Criville (twelfth) run out of road at the Spoon curve, while Garry McCoy began challenging Biaggi for third, whom he duly passed a lap later before quickly moving into second when Nakano also fell victim to the flying Australian.
By now Rossi was also on the move, as he smoothly swept his way into fifth, while at the front McCoy completed a terrific lap by taking the lead from Capirossi at the 130R.
Rossi caught up to Biaggi on lap 4 who briefly eased the pressure from the Nastro Azzurro rider by putting Capirossi between them, before Rossi also passed the West Honda Pons pole sitter.
So, by lap 5 the order at the front of the race was: McCoy, from Nakano, Biaggi and Rossi.
By now Rossi was climbing all over the back of Biaggi's Yamaha and attempted to pass at the hairpin, Biaggi was having none of it though and held his line around the outside, while Haga successfully past Capirossi with a characteristically brave move.
Rossi, still shadowing Biaggi, looked like he would pass the Marlboro rider after getting a better exit from the final chicane. However, as Rossi drew alongside Biaggi he elbowed the #46 rider forcing him onto the grass at high speed, as the battle between the two Italian descended into a grudge match.