Casey Stoner has closed to within 20 points of new MotoGP World Championship leader Valentino Rossi after taking his third victory in a row, and fourth of the season, during Sunday's wet German Grand Prix at Sachsenring.

Dani Pedrosa, who won the dry 2007 German GP by a massive 13.166secs, defied his wet weather weakness label by charging past pole sitter Stoner into turn one, then rocketing to a massive 7.4secs lead by the end of lap five of 30!

But Pedrosa's incredible pace proved too fast for the conditions and when the Spaniard hit the brakes for turn one, the front wheel of his Repsol Honda slid abruptly away and he spiralled down the road and into his first retirement of the season.

The mistake marked Pedrosa's first DNF of the year, handed Stoner a 1.5secs race lead over Andrea Dovizioso and ultimately cost Dani the 2008 world championship lead.

Rossi, who qualified just seventh on the grid, made a cautious start but was up to fourth by the time of Pedrosa's accident. The Fiat Yamaha star then overtook fellow M1 rider Colin Edwards for third on lap eight and passed rookie Dovizioso for second soon after.

The Italian's swift progression suggested he could threaten Stoner, but the Australian responded to Rossi's attack - initially consolidating his lead at three seconds, then pulling over five seconds clear before backing off to a 3.7secs victory margin by the end of a textbook wet weather ride.

Reigning world champion Stoner came into the event 29 points behind Pedrosa and 25 points from Rossi, but heads to next weekend's US Grand Prix at Laguna Seca - the last race before the MotoGP summer break - just four points from Pedrosa and 20 points from Rossi.

Completing the podium alongside a 'satisfied' Rossi and a sick-looking Stoner was Rizla Suzuki's Chris Vermeulen.

The Australian wet weather ace lined-up just 14th on the 17 rider grid, but had passed Edwards for third as early as lap ten. The former WSS champion came under sustained attack from rookie Alex de Angelis during the closing stages, but held on to Suzuki's first podium of the season by just 0.122secs. Fourth for de Angelis at least signalled his joint best MotoGP result to date.

The 2007 German Grand Prix was the only event at which Bridgestone struggled badly against Michelin last year, but the Japanese tyre manufacturer more than made up for it in the 2008 edition - sweeping the top four places.

Michelin riders Dovizioso and Edwards both held podium places during the early part of the race, but had been pushed back to fifth and sixth by the halfway stage - with Edwards then crashing out of fifth on lap 21. Dovizioso, who began the race a career best fourth on the grid, inherited that position and was the only Michelin rider in the top seven.

Sylvain Guintoli made up for a poor 15th in qualifying with a Desmosedici best of sixth in the race, with Loris Capirossi just edging out LCR's Randy de Puniet for seventh position on the second Rizla Suzuki.

de Angelis' Honda Gresini team-mate Shinya Nakano and Anthony West completed the top ten - West, the lone Kawasaki rider in this weekend's event, fighting back from a fall.

Stoner's team-mate Marco Melandri, riding in what is rumoured to be his penultimate race for Ducati, wasn't so fortunate. The Italian climbed from 16th to seventh by lap ten, when he was the fastest man on track, but then promptly crashed out.

Race winning MotoGP rookie Jorge Lorenzo also failed to finish, the Fiat Yamaha rider having been spat from his factory M1 on lap three.

Rounding out the 13 finishers was Pedrosa's team-mate Nicky Hayden. The American was desperately unhappy with his Repsol Honda from the very start and pitted for a new tyre on lap eight.

The two other riders to finish a lap down were James Toseland and Toni Elias, neither of whom looked comfortable in the slippery conditions.

German Grand Prix:

1. Stoner
2. Rossi
3. Vermeulen
4. de Angelis
5. Dovizioso
6. Guintoli
7. Capirossi
8. de Puniet
9. Nakano
10. West
11. Toseland
12. Elias
13. Hayden