Dani Pedrosa took his third win of the season with an almost unchallenged ride in the Malaysian Motorcycle Grand Prix at Sepang, on the oputskirts of Kuala Lumpur, as his team mate Marc Marquez delivered a works Honda 1-2 after a nail-biting battle with Yamaha Factory rider Jorge Lorenzo, the reigning World champion.
Sepang was also kind to the South African contingent; Steven Odendaal (Speed Up) finished 21st in the Moto2 race, 40 seconds down on the leaders, but at least he was still on the bike, which is more than can be said for nine of the top riders after an incident-strewn race that was red-flagged after a multiple crash on the very first lap.
Brad Binder (Mahindra) put up a superb fight for 10th in Moto3 with Kalex KTM rider Philipp Oettl, with Oettl in front by 0.134sec when it mattered; nevertheless, he walked away with five valuable championship points.
Pedrosa narrowly missed out on taking the lead as Lorenzo swept through at the start, but passed the Yamaha at the end of the first lap, leaving Lorenzo to an intense battle with Marquez, who finally made the move stick at Turn 14 on lap nine.
Lorenzo's team mate, nine-times World champion Valentino Rossi, put in a lonely ride to fourth while Honda privateer Alvaro Bautista got the best of a superb dice for fifth with Yamaha Tech 3 star Cal Crutchlow by just 0.152sec.
That moved Bautista up to sixth in the points, ahead of fellow Honda privateer Stefan Bradl, who was forced to miss the race because of a broken ankle.
Pedrosa's win kept his championship hopes alive (mathematically speaking, anyway) along with those of Lorenzo, although Marquez is the only rider who can clinch the title next weekend at Phillip Island, which would make him not only the first premier-class rider to take the crown in his rookie season since Kenny Roberts (senior!) in 1978 but also the youngest MotoGP World champion yet.
1 Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda - 40min45.191
2 Marc Marquez (Spain) Honda +2.757sec
3 Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Yamaha +6.669
4 Valentino Rossi (Italy) Yamaha +10.351
5 Alvaro Bautista (Spain) Honda +22.159
6 Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Yamaha +22.301
7 Bradley Smith (Britain) Yamaha +30.864
8 Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Ducati +45.111
9 Aleix Espargaro (Spain) ART +59.264
10 Yonny Hernandez (Colombia) +1min01.417
POINTS after 15 of 18 rounds
1 Marc Marquez (Spain) Honda - 298
2 Jorge Lorenzo (Spain) Yamaha - 255
3 Dani Pedrosa (Spain) Honda - 244
4 Valentino Rossi (Italy) Ducati - 198
5 Cal Crutchlow (Britain) Yamaha - 166
6 Alvaro Bautista (Spain) Honda - 136
7 Stefan Bradl (Germany) Honda - 135
8 Andrea Dovizioso (Italy) Ducati - 120
9 Nicky Hayden (United States) Ducati - 102
10 Bradley Smith (Britain) Yamaha - 89
Axel Pons went down on the first lap of the 600cc Grand Prix and his Kalex wound up lying on the racing line, where it brought down Fadli Immammuddin's MotoBi - which then skittled Ezequiel Iturrioz (Kalex), local rider Zaqhwan Zaidi (Suter) and Decha Kraisart (Yamaha Tech 3), leaving debris all over the circuit and bringing out the red flags, although all five riders escaped major injury.
It took the marshals a while to clean up the mess and the race, originally scheduled for 19 laps of the bumpy Sepang circuit, was shortened to just 12 tours.
Pol Esparagaro (Kalex) grabbed the hole shot at the re-start, only for similarly mounted Tito Rabat, who'd dominated practice and qualifying, to slide under him and into the a lead he was to hold to the flag.
Espargaro struck back in the closing stages, passing Suter rider Thomas Luthi for second at the start of the penultimate lap tour, while fourth and fifth were filled by Mika Kallio (Kalex) and Dominique Aegerter (Suter), who remained under official scrutiny after a start-line incident that took both Alex de Angelis (Speed Up) and Xavier Simeon (Kalex) out of the race.
Johann Zarco (Suter) slipstreamed his way past championship leader Scott Redding (Kalex) into sixth right on the finish line, which reduced Redding's advantage over Espargaro from 20 points to just nine, while Rabat's third win of the season moves him up to within 28 points of Redding with 75 still on offer.
1 Esteve Rabat (Spain) Kalex - 25min45.411
2 Pol Espargaro (Spain) Kalex +1.563sec
3 Thomas Luthi (Switzerland) Suter +2.910
4 Mika Kallio (Finland) Kalex +4.814
5 Dominique Aegerter (Switzerland) Suter +7.352
6 Johann Zarco (France) Suter +9.790
7 Scott Redding (Britain) Kalex +9.840
8 Takaaki Nakagami (Japan) Kalex +11.894
9 Jordi Torres (Spain) Suter +12.302
10 Julian Simon (Spain) Kalex +15.524
21 Steven Odendaal (South Africa) Speed Up +40.132
Luis Salom (KTM) extended his quarter-litre championship lead by coming out on top of a multiple-rider battle, beating the similar bike of Alex Rins by just 69 thousands of a second, with Miguel Oliveira completing the podium.
For 18 tours of the Sepang International Circuit, the lead had changed on almost every lap. Salom started from pole position, with FTR Honda riders Alexis Masbou and Niccolo Antonelli making up the front row. Masbou grabbed the hole shot but slipped to seventh in the closing stages, five seconds behind a furious six-way dice for the lead.
Rins dived into the lead going into the final lap, but Salom slipstreamed him down the back straight to re-take the advantage; Rins had another go in the very last corner but lost out on a hat trick by less than the width of a tyre. Miguel Oliviera collected Mahindra's first podium finish of 2013 campaign, ahead of Rins' team mate Alex Marquez, Maverick Viñales (KTM) and FTR Honda rider Jack Miller - who finished only 1.077 seconds behind the winner!
And just for those who insist Grand Prix motorcycle racing is a boy's club, 16-year-old KTM rider Ana Carrasco celebrated her first World championship point courtesy of 15th.
Salom's win raised his points total to 284 with three races remaining, 14 ahead of Rins and 26 clear of Viñales with three races to go and 75 points still to be won.
1 Luis Salom (Spain) KTM - 40min42.441
2 Alex Rins (Spain) KTM +0.069sec
3 Miguel Oliveira (Portugal) Mahindra +0.408
4 Alex Marquez (Spain) KTM +0.782
5 Maverick Vinales (Spain) KTM +1.055
6 Jack Miller (Australia) FTR Honda +1.077
7 Alexis Masbou (France) FTR Honda +5.016
8 Jonas Folger (Germany) Kalex KTM +6.277
9 Romano Fenati (Italy) FTR Honda +6.952
10 Philipp Oettl (Germany) Kalex KTM +10.962
11 Brad Binder (South Africa) Mahindra +11.098