Reigning six time MotoGP world champion Valentino Rossi has taken his first win of the 2009 season - and the 98th of his career - with a come-from-behind victory in front of over 123,000 fans in Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix at Jerez.

The Italian, second at the first two rounds of the season, held his fourth on the grid during the opening corners - whilst home hero Dani Pedrosa stormed into an early lead ahead of Casey Stoner and pole sitter Jorge Lorenzo.

Rossi - who appeared deflated after qualifying 0.7sec off pole - snatched third place from Lorenzo on lap two, then made a second pass on Stoner stick to claim the runner-up spot from the Ducati rider on lap seven of 27.

By that point Pedrosa's Repsol Honda was 1.4sec ahead of the #46 Fiat Yamaha, and Pedrosa - winner of last year's race - initially matched The Doctor lap-for-lap, before Rossi surged up to the Spaniard's rear wheel with eleven laps to go.

Rossi made his victory pass with a repeat of his Lorenzo move, diving inside at the Nieto corner that leads into the stadium section. The 30-year-old quickly put a safe amount of space between himself and Pedrosa on his way to a 2.7sec victory and the 2009 title lead by eleven points over Stoner.

Rossi celebrated by repeating his classic 'portaloo' celebration from the 1999 Spanish 250GP, whilst the trackside fireworks began exploding.

Pedrosa was able to maintain second position and therefore continue his remarkable record of never finishing lower than second at a Jerez MotoGP race, while Stoner faced a late race attack from Lorenzo.

The Spaniard, whose Motegi victory last weekend had given him the world championship lead, was strangely off pace for the first half of the race - and almost seven seconds behind Pedrosa by the midway stage.

However the Spaniard, 22 years old on Monday, found form thereafter, closing to within less than one second of third place Stoner with four laps to go - when he lost the front of his M1 and dramatically lowsided into the gravel.

The #99 remounted but his battered machine had no right foot peg and he was forced to cruise back to the pit garage and a bitter DNF. Lorenzo is now equal third with Pedrosa in the world championship, 24 points behind Rossi.

Lorenzo's exit left Stoner to claim his first ever Jerez podium, at his and Ducati's toughest track, while Randy de Puniet rode a faultless race to claim an excellent fourth for the satelitte LCR Honda team.

Also celebrating was Marco Melandri, who matched Kawasaki's best MotoGP finish of last season in only his third race on the unofficial Hayate-run ZX-RR.

The Italian, riding in his 100th MotoGP event, battled countryman Loris Capirossi and American Colin Edwards for much of the race, getting the better of Capirossi's Suzuki by one second with Edwards less than half a second further back for Monster Yamaha Tech 3.

Andrea Dovizioso took eighth place despite running off track on lap eight and rejoining in 16th place, while Toni Elias (Gresini Honda) and Chris Vermeulen (Rizla Suzuki) completed the top ten.

Sete Gibernau's Jerez return netted eleventh for Francisco Hernando Ducati, while Yuki Takahashi helped erase his Motegi mistake by being the top rookie in twelfth position for Scot Honda.

James Toseland was a disappointing 13th for Tech 3, a fraction in front of Gresini's Alex de Angelis. Stoner's team-mate Nicky Hayden faired even worse - finishing the race over one minute behind Rossi and ahead of only Pramac rookie Niccolo Canepa.

Canepa's team-mate Mika Kallio retired with technical problems.

The French Grand Prix at Le Mans takes place on May 17.

Spanish Grand Prix:

1. Rossi
2. Pedrosa
3. Stoner
4. de Puniet
5. Melandri
6. Capirossi
7. Edwards
8. Dovizioso
9. Elias
10. Vermeulen
11. Gibernau
12. Takahashi
13. Toseland
14. de Angelis
15. Hayden
16. Canepa