Australian Casey Stoner had to settle for second place in MotoGP’s season-ending Valencia Grand Prix on his last ride for Ducati.
Stoner started from pole and led for two-thirds of the race before losing a battle with Yamaha’s world champion Jorge Lorenzo who claimed his ninth win to break the record for the total amount of points garnered in a season.
The Spaniard reached 383 points, breaking Valentino Rossi’s previous record of 373.
Rossi finished the race in third position to farewell Yamaha after a 46-race relationship which ends with his departure for Ducati next season as Stoner moves to Honda.
“It has been a great experience and I have enjoyed it a lot,” said 31-year-old Rossi, who made a remarkably quick return to the circuit after breaking his leg earlier in the campaign in qualifying at Mugello.
“I wanted to do a good race for Yamaha on my farewell but I didn’t have any power to stop the bike so I had to slow down.
“I would like to thank everybody at Yamaha and say it has been a lot of fun.”
With 15 laps remaining Stoner – who had won three of the past four races – led Lorenzo by a hair’s breadth with Rossi close up in third.
Mario Simoncelli was hard on the heels of fellow Honda rider Dani Pedrosa, who had been in contention but had dropped back as he was still feeling the after effects of the broken collarbone.
Pedrosa, Simoncelli – who started off the front of the grid for the first time in his MotoGP career – and another Italian Andrea Dovizioso were fighting for the minor placings as they were five seconds off the top three with 13 laps to the chequered flag.
Dovizioso overtook them both a lap later but Pedrosa, showing remarkable resilience, fought back and was back in fourth as the lap came to an end while American rookie Ben Spies crept up to join them.
As Rossi dropped away Lorenzo saw his chance and passed Stoner with just over eight laps remaining driving the Spanish crowd wild as they danced up and down and waved their flags with gay abandon.
Back down the field Dovizioso passed Simoncelli while Spies stayed doggedly on their wheels with Pedrosa now trailing.
However, the thrilling ding dong battle saw Spies go fourth with three laps remaining as Simoncelli failed to overtake Dovizioso and the American – who is struggling with a foot injury – took advantage to go past both Italians.
Up front Lorenzo had pressed home his advantage and was over two seconds ahead of Stoner going into the final lap to round off a stunning season.
“Today was one of the best races of my life,” gasped Lorenzo, who also bettered Rossi’s record of podium finishes in a season with 18 compared to the Italian’s previous mark of 16.
“I had a few problems with Simoncelli early on but then I got free and had a really very beautiful battle with Casey Stoner.”
Pedrosa finished seventh to hold on to second place in the championship ahead of seven-time champion Rossi and 2007 champion Stoner.
1 J Lorenzo 46:44.622
2 C Stoner +4.576
3 V Rossi +8.998
4 B Spies +17.643
5 A Dovizioso +19.160
6 M Simoncelli +20.674
7 D Pedrosa +26.797
8 H Barbera +29.288
9 A Bautista +29.451
10 R De Puniet +29.860
11 A Espargaro +31.761
12 C Edwards +33.604
13 M Melandri +36.622
14 H Aoyama +38.968
15 C Checa +56.169
16 L Capirossi DNF
17 N Hayden DNF
1 Jorge Lorenzo, Fiat Yamaha Team, 383
2 Dani Pedrosa, Repsol Honda Team, 245
3 Valentino Rossi, Fiat Yamaha Team, 233
4 Casey Stoner, Ducati Marlboro Team, 225
5 Andrea Dovizioso, Repsol Honda Team, 206
6 Ben Spies, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 176
7 Nicky Hayden, Ducati Marlboro Team, 163
8 Marco Simoncelli, San Carlo Honda Gresini, 125
9 Randy de Puniet, LCR Honda, 116
10 Colin Edwards, Monster Yamaha Tech 3, 103
= Marco Melandri, San Carlo Honda Gresini, 103
12 Hector Barbera, Aspar Racing Team, 90
13 Alvaro Bautista, Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, 85
14 Alex Espargaro, Pramac Racing Team, 65
15 Hiroshi Aoyama, Interwetten Honda MotoGP, 53
16 Loris Capirossi, Rizla Suzuki MotoGP, 44
17 Mika Kallio, Pramac Racing Team, 43
18 Alex de Angelis, Interwetten Honda, 11
19 Roger Lee Hayden, LCR Honda, 5
20 Kousuke Akiyoshi, Interwetten Honda MotoGP, 4
21 Wataru Yoshikawa, Fiat Yamaha Team, 1
= Carlos Checa, Pramac Racing Team, 1