The Repsol Honda star began the event on pole position and holding the world championship lead, but was overtaken by Casey Stoner into turn one and couldn't get around the Ducati rider.

While trapped behind the world champion, who was also having front end problems, Pedrosa was caught and passed by Valentino Rossi on lap 4 of 26. Rossi then took the lead on lap 8, and promptly began to break away, while Pedrosa finally overtook Stoner with a clever move through the last turn on lap 11.

But Dani was unable to pull away and - despite Stoner's engine problem - fell victim to both Jorge Lorenzo and Colin Edwards during the final eight laps.

"I am sorry because we could have been on the podium but in the race I wasn't able to go as fast as I had gone during practice," said Dani. "From the beginning of the race I had some issues with the front tyre, I couldn't brake the way I wanted to brake.

"When we chose our race tyres we tried hard to choose the best tyres for the race, so we didn't expect things to turn out like they did. Then in the second half of the race I started to lack some rear grip. When Lorenzo passed me I tried to go with him and not lose contact but I couldn't manage it.

"I gave my maximum and despite the problems we finished fourth, which isn't so bad. We are second equal in the championship and we will continue to work hard to achieve better results at the next races.

"We stay here tomorrow for one day of testing when we will try to understand what happened today and make another step forward," concluded Pedrosa, now level on points with Lorenzo and three behind new title leader Rossi.

Team-mate Nicky Hayden, who qualified sixth fastest, lost several places mid-race when he ran off the track and eventually finished a disappointing eighth.

"That wasn't too pretty," he admitted. "All weekend we've been missing something, the pace hasn't been there. I got a good start and recovered a couple of positions but couldn't go with the group I needed to go with. I was hanging in there, then I ran off the track in turn six, got in just a little bit hot, didn't make it and that lost me three positions. I came back on, had a little dice with Loris over the last few laps but it wasn't the result we wanted.

"This has never been an easy track for me, I'd say Le Mans is the worst track for me on the calendar," he declared. "Tomorrow we'll work on chassis stuff. I need to try getting some momentum going, especially for the tracks I really love that are coming up. I need to be strong when I get to them, I need to use the people around me to find what I need."

After Monday's test, Hayden will then travel back to the US where he will ride a demo lap aboard a 2007 RC212V before the start of next weekend's Indy 500 car race, to promote September's inaugural Indianapolis MotoGP event.