MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi has taken one of his greatest victories after beating a trio of charging Hondas by 0.3secs following 30 laps of non-stop Sachsenring action.
Rossi came into the race having qualified just eleventh on the grid after suffering handling problems with his Camel Yamaha, but a fast start and aggressive first lap saw him climb to sixth - by which time world championship leader Nicky Hayden was leading the field, having passed both
Kenny Roberts Jr and pole sitter Dani Pedrosa in a brave move at the bottom of the hill.
Hayden continued to hold a narrow lead during the early stages, while Rossi's advance faltered and he had gained only one further position - passing Roberts Jr for fifth - by lap eight. But Roberts was part of a more significant incident three laps later when the American made an ill-judged lunge inside Makoto Tamada at the final turn.
Tamada had been enjoying by far his most competitive race of the season, shooting from tenth to fourth on the first lap and then holding his own as he rose to a high of third among the tight seven-man lead group, also consisting of Hayden, Pedrosa, Marco Melandri, Rossi, Roberts and top Bridgestone rider Loris Capirossi.
Having recently been overtaken by Rossi, the Konica Minolta Honda rider was still holding a close fifth on lap 11 when Roberts dived inside. However, the 2000 500cc World Champion couldn't stop in time and lost the front as he thundered towards the apex, his riderless bike then slamming into the side of Tamada and sending them both tumbling through the gravel.
An apologetic KR Jr immediately rushed to Tamada's aid - the Japanese appearing to have injured his knee during the impact - and the American continued to check on the double MotoGP race winner as he was taken to the medical centre in an ambulance.
That incident not only ruled out two potential winners, but also held up the following Capirossi for a few vital seconds and marked the start of his own decline: From now on the fight for German Grand Prix victory was a straight nerve-wracking battle between Rossi and the Hondas of Hayden, Pedrosa and Melandri - with all four having already tasted victory at least once this year.
Melandri had taken the lead from Hayden at the start of lap 11 - with Pedrosa forcing his way past for second in the tight twists that followed - but Rossi was also on the attack and quickly despatched Hayden, Pedrosa and finally Melandri to take the lead for the first time on lap 13, the #46 picking the left hander at the bottom of the hill as his passing point on all three occasions.
Rossi then appeared to try and break the RCVs, pushing hard for the next ten laps - but the Honda trio stuck with The Doctor, despite being locked in their own battles, and with five laps to go the top four of Rossi, Melandri, Pedrosa and Hayden were nose-to-tail again.