Dani Pedrosa took his and Honda's first victory in more than a year with a commanding yet tight victory in the U.S. GP at Laguna Seca.
The Spaniard, who made a perfect start from fourth on the grid to take the lead before the first corner, opened a lead of over three seconds mid-way through the 32-lap race, but while slowing down towards the end he risked being overtaken by Valentino Rossi at the very last corner.
Jorge Lorenzo and Casey Stoner, who suffered major crashes in yesterday's qualifying at Laguna Seca, both had fine performances today. The Yamaha rider, who was not even sure he would be fit enough to take part in the race before this morning's warm-up, made a great recovery and almost managed to snatch second away from teammate Rossi.
Stoner stayed with Rossi for the first 20 laps before suffering a dip in performance that in the end saw the Ducati man finish ten seconds away from Lorenzo at the checkered flag.
Behind Pedrosa immediately taking the lead at the start, Stoner got ahead of Rossi, with Toni Elias's Gresini Honda and Andrea Dovizioso's factory Honda following behind.
Lorenzo made a bad gateway from pole and was soon down in eighth place, with Americans Colin Edwards (Tech 3 Yamaha) and Nicky Hayden (Ducati) also getting ahead of him. But by the end of the first lap Lorenzo was fifth, which became fourth on lap seven when Dovizioso crashed after losing grip at the front.
Positions soon settled, with all the excitement left for the end, when with five laps to go Lorenzo tried to overtake Rossi at the last corner but wobbled dangerously and barely managed to stay on the bike. The move resulted in him going wide and losing a second from the Italian.
Back then Pedrosa had 2.5sec over the Yamaha duo, but that lead dropped to 1.5sec at the beginning of the last lap, with the former 250cc champion further slowing down and allowing Rossi to catch him after the Corkscrew.
The reigning world champion tried all he could at the last corner, where he tried to outbrake Pedrosa from a long way behind, but it was just too far.
Stoner eventually fell 12sec adrift of the leaders as he took fourth, ahead of his Ducati team-mate Hayden. The American enjoyed his best race of a difficult 2009 season as he fended off Elias to take fifth.
The race saw unusually high attrition. Gabor Talmacsi (Scot Honda) and Loris Capirossi (Suzuki) both retired on lap four, with the Hungarian crashing and the Italian having an off after which he went back to the pits and got off the bike. Sete Gibernau also crashed his Hernando Ducati on lap eight and retired on the spot.
James Toseland made a jump start from 15th on the grid and was penalised with a ride-through on lap five. But the Briton failed to comply with the penalty and on lap 11 was shown the black flag, after which he inexplicably did the ride-through on lap 12 and retired his Tech 3 Yamaha on the next lap.RESULTS:
Pos Rider Bike Time/Gap
1. Dani Pedrosa Honda 44m01.580s
2. Valentino Rossi Yamaha + 0.344s
3. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha + 1.926s
4. Casey Stoner Ducati + 12.432s
5. Nicky Hayden Ducati + 21.663s
6. Toni Elias Gresini Honda + 22.041s
7. Colin Edwards Tech 3 Yamaha + 30.201s
8. Chris Vermeulen Suzuki + 32.857s
9. Randy de Puniet LCR Honda + 40.325s
10. Marco Melandri Hayate Kawasaki + 48.028s
11. Alex de Angelis Gresini Honda + 48.810s
12. Niccolo Canepa Pramac Ducati +1m18.531s
Andrea Dovizioso Honda 6 laps
Sete Gibernau Hernando Ducati 6 laps
Loris Capirossi Suzuki 3 laps
Gabor Talmacsi Scot Honda 3 laps
James Toseland Tech 3 Yamaha DSQ