Valentino Rossi made the perfect start to his world championship title defence with a consummate victory in the opening round of the 2010 season at Qatar, as Ducati rival Casey Stoner crashed out of the lead early-on.
Rossi's Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo finished second after a dramatic late surge, while Andrea Dovizioso beat a revitalized Nicky Hayden to third place by 0.011s.
The grand prix had looked like it was heading in Stoner's direction. The Australian dominated much of practice, took pole, and was leading when he lost the front end of his GP10.
Stoner dropped to third at the start behind a fast-starting Dani Pedrosa and Rossi. But he forced his way past Rossi at Turn 4 on lap two, then passed Pedrosa into Turn 1 a lap later.
He was beginning to establish a comfortable lead when inexplicably, his bike was in the gravel, and after just six laps, his race was over.
By this time Rossi had got past Pedrosa, whose first lap form deserted him as he dropped down the order, and found himself gifted a lead he perhaps hadn't expected to come so easily. His race wasn't wrapped up yet though as Pedrosa's teammate Andrea Dovisioso was heading in the opposite direction and provided a mid-race challenge to the world champion.
The extraordinary straightline speed of the Honda even allowed the tall Italian to take the lead on the straight on lap 17, but Rossi immediately responded by outbraking him into Turn 1. Having received the warning he needed, Rossi infused some extra pace around the back of the circuit to break his pursuer's spirit.
In the wheeltracks of the Honda was a revitalized Hayden, who rode superbly and looked on for a podium on the Ducati, until Lorenzo's penultimate lap charge, which saw the Spaniard rocket past both the American and a surprised Dovizioso in two separate, ruthless maneuvers. Hayden gave it his everything to get back in to a podium position on the last lap, in unquestionably his most competitive race since 2008, and actually got past Dovi around the back of the track. But as the pair came on to the straight, Hayden simply had no answer to the speed of the Honda and was forced to accept fourth.
Ben Spies took a competitive fifth for Tech 3 Yamaha, not too far away from the battle for third, while Randy de Puniet finished a respectable sixth.
Pedrosa eventually faded to seventh ahead of Colin Edwards, who overtook Loris Capirossi midway through the Italian's 300th race. Rookie Hiroshi Aoyama finished tenth.
Marco Simoncelli was 11th for Gresini after a last lap tangle with Suzuki newboy Alvaro Bautista who crashed as a result. Hector Barbera was the immediate beneficiary, 12th for Aspar on the team's MotoGP debut, while Marco Melandri was the last finisher.
Pos Rider Bike Result
1. Valentino Rossi Yamaha 42m50.099s
2. Jorge Lorenzo Yamaha +1.022s
3. Andrea Dovizioso Honda +1.865s
4. Nicky Hayden Ducati +1.876s
5. Ben Spies Yamaha +3.903s
6. Randy De Puniet Honda +9.322s
7. Dani Pedrosa Honda +16.508s
8. Colin Edwards Yamaha +19.867s
9. Loris Capirossi Suzuki +20.893s
10. Hiroshi Aoyama Honda +21.100s
11. Marco Simoncelli Honda +31.638s
12. Hector Barbera Ducati +32.573s
13. Marco Melandri Honda +40.780s
Alvaro Bautista Suzuki +1 lap
Aleix Espargaro Ducati +15 laps
Casey Stoner Ducati +17 laps
Mika Kallio Ducati +20 laps