Ducati's Loris Capirossi has taken victory in a dramatic season opening Spanish Grand Prix - after finally breaking the amazing challenge of MotoGP rookie Dani Pedrosa with just two laps to go.
The race started with high drama when reigning five times MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi - winner of the first race of the season for the past five years - was hit by Toni Elias at the apex of a claustrophobic turn one; the Italian being sent spinning across the asphalt before springing to his feet and punching the air in disgust.
The seven times world champion then slowly remounted his factory M1 - which looked to have sustained footpeg/rear brake lever and front brake lever damage - to continue the race almost a minute down and with his chances of victory well and truly over. Team-mate Colin Edwards was also caught up in the mayhem, dropping back down the field as he avoided the contact ahead.
Meanwhile, pole sitter Capirossi had held off team-mate Sete Gibernau to lead the field around turn one - with Marco Melandri third, Nicky Hayden fourth, Casey Stoner fifth - after a stunning first MotoGP start - with Shinya Nakano, Pedrosa, Randy de Puniet and Checa following.
2005 MotoGP runner-up Melandri dived past Gibernau later in the lap, but much worse was to follow for the Catalan - who had set the pace in morning warm-up - when he suddenly raised his hand on the exit of a turn, a lap later, to signal terminal mechanical problems for his Desmosedici.
At around the same time, fellow Spaniard Pedrosa was already starting to feature - the triple world champion carving his way confidently through the field to take third from Melandri, behind new second place man Hayden, on lap 4 - while Capirossi pulled clear up front.
However, any fears that Loris would walk away to victory were soon quashed as Dani blasted past team-mate Hayden and promptly began taking chunks out of the Italian's lead. It is no exaggeration to say that Pedrosa was already giving many of his new rivals a riding lesson - and cut Capirossi's advantage down to under one second within five laps.
By the halfway stage, that slim margin still separated the top two, with Hayden now a further three-seconds adrift and Melandri in turn two-seconds from the #69 and coming under pressure from new team-mate Elias. Behind the top five, Stoner, Nakano, Hopkins, Roberts, Checa, Tamada, Vermeulen, Edwards, Hofmann, Cardoso, Ellison and Rossi completed the remaining runners.
With the crowd cheering Pedrosa over every inch of the 4.4km circuit, the Spaniard continued to hunt down Capirossi - making ground on braking/corner entry and sliding less than the #65 ahead - and with 10 laps to go had well and truly caught the double 2005 race winner, lurking just a few tenths from his rear wheel.