Marco Melandri won his first 250 Grand Prix at the Sachsenring after a fantastic late race charge saw him catch and then pass race leader Daijiro Katoh with a brave move at the final corner - and win by just 0.052secs.
At the start pole sitter Tetsuya Harada found all his hard work in qualifying undone at the first corner as Katoh stormed into the led from third on the grid, with Melandri keeping his second place start and the injured McWilliams – arguably the star of qualifying – moving into third.
However, halfway through the first lap Melandri sliced ahead of Katoh – was quickley re-passed by the Honda rider – but then both Aprilia's (Melandri and Harada, now ahead of McWilliams in third) got stunning drive out of the final uphill left hander and overtook Katoh at the first corner.
Worst was to follow for Katoh as McWilliams also moved ahead of the 24-year-old championship leader, while Luca Boscoscuro high sided while accelerating out up the hill at the final corner – the Italian sliding down the track and the luckless Roberto Locatelli hit his bike head on – throwing him up in the air and cartwheeling into retirement, 'Loca' being fortunate to walk away relatively unhurt.
Meanwhile, back at the front, on lap 5 of 29, Harada still led from Melandri, McWilliams, Katoh and Alzamora, with Fonsi Nieto trying desperately to tag on to the lead pack in sixth.
The formation at the front continued with the three Aprilia's leading the two Honda's over the next few laps, with McWilliams – riding with his broken collar bone - stealing second from Melandri.
As they crossed the line for the eighth time Alzamora lost his Telefonica Honda even before he turned in to the first corner, leaving Katoh to face the Aprilia's alone. The Aprilia cause would lose one of their own on the same lap though, when the #99 machine slid off the track and into the gravel trap after the front washed away – leaving Ulsterman McWilliams unharmed – but furious with himself.
So, with just over a third of the race completed Harada still led from Melandri and Katoh (just 0.472secs behind Harada), the trio now commanding a two second lead over fourth placed Fonsi Nieto as the race shaped up for a thrilling Katoh versus Aprilia finish.
By lap 13 Katoh had found a way by Melandri's #5 machine, but the brave Italian fought back and a different line through one of the many right-left corners saw Katoh back in third. But Melandri made clear he wasn't simply protecting Harada as he moved inside his Japanese teammate for the lead later in the lap.