Yamaha’s Jorge Lorenzo won the season-opening Qatar MotoGP after snatching the lead off world champion Casey Stoner with a little more than three laps to go on Sunday.
Australian Stoner, who had won the night race four times in the last five years, was also passed by Honda teammate Dani Pedrosa in the closing stages and had to settle for third under the floodlights.
Stoner led for most of the race after overtaking Pedrosa on lap two and pole-sitter Lorenzo on the next loop of the Losail circuit, but put his defeat down to a muscular contraction in his right arm that made it hard to grip the throttle and steer.
“After four laps I started to get really bad arm pump,” the 26-year-old told the BBC. “By the end of the race I couldn’t grip any more, couldn’t use the brakes.”
“In general we’re happy,” said the world champion, who won 10 races last season.
“There’s lots of positives to take from this. We’ve got a couple of weeks to take a break, and train and solve the right arm pump,” he said.
With Stoner having problems, Lorenzo and Pedrosa began to close a gap that was more than a second with four laps to go.
Pedrosa moved ahead of Lorenzo, only for his fellow Spaniard to nip back inside him on a bend.
Sensing victory, the 2010 champion then moved up on the inside of Stoner for the lead and pulled away on the straight.
“I put everything I had into the track,” Lorenzo said. “This victory is because I never gave up, was always pushing, pushing. [Stoner] struggled at the end, and I kept my pace and I passed him and I passed Dani.”
Britain’s Cal Crutchlow was fourth on a Yamaha Tech3.
Spain’s Marc Marquez saw off Italian Andrea Iannone by 0.061 seconds to win the Moto2 race, with Pol Espargaro third.
There was also a Spanish winner in the inaugural Moto3 event, when Maverick Vinales finished ahead of Italian rookie Romano Fenati and German Sandro Cortese.