ALCANIZ - Dani Pedrosa gave himself a timely birthday present with a dazzling victory in the Aragon Grand Prix MotoGP race here on Sunday.

The Spanish Honda rider, who turned 27 on Saturday, came home clear of compatriot and overall series leader Jorge Lorenzo, on a Yamaha, while Andrea Dovizioso was third on a Yamaha a whisker ahead of team-mate Cal Crutchlow. Pedrosa, who was winning his third race in the last four MotoGPs, narrowed the gap on Lorenzo in the standings to 33 points with four races to go and made up for his disastrous outing at San Marino a fortnight ago where he went out on the first lap.

Pedrosa admitted that the cloud of the San Marino race was still affecting him entering the weekend. "It was a tough weekend because of the cold conditions and rain yesterday and I had all the things in my head from the last race," said Pedrosa, a former 125cc and two-time 250cc world champion.

"It was hard to keep calm in the weekend but today it was good for me and a good race. Immediately I could see I could go faster and then open a gap. I am very happy to win in front of my fans and family and on my birthday weekend."

Lorenzo, who has still not won here, said that he realised soon after Pedrosa overtook him that he would not catch him and he played safe. "I make a mistake on the first corner after he overtook me and I almost crashed and then realised I couldn't go at the same pace as I had done on the first few laps.

"It was impossible to follow Pedrosa so I raced for the championship after that. No risks." Dovizioso said that it was great to get back on the podium. "I wanted to stay in front of Ben (Spies) and Cal even though I wasn't so fast," said the 26-year-old. "I was so slow in some pIaces. I knew Cal would try and overtake me and I tried to shut the door. Cal is really aggressive but really clean in the battle. It was a good battle with him and very important to get onto the podium again."

Crutchlow wasn't too disappointed as he was able to extend his lead in his points battle with Italian superstar Valentino Rossi. "Its nice for Dovi and myself and the team," said the 26-year-old Briton. "He's (Dovi) a class act. I'm really pleased we finished strongly again. Not too bad to be just off the podium. Nice to get in top four and take some points off Valentino."

Rossi's race almost came to an abrupt end on the first lap when the Italian great tried to overtake Jonathan Rea, deputising for the injured two-time world champion Casey Stoner, but clipped his Honda and went onto the gravel before returning at the back of the field. Ducati's nightmare got worse as Rossi's team-mate Nicky Hayden went veering off into the gravel after two laps and failed to pull up before the advertising hoardings - the impact of the collision sending him vaulting over the hoardings where he required medical attention.

Hayden, who was already nursing a sore arm prior to the race, was taken to the medical centre for further attention but arrived there speaking clearly and with no serious damage to his limbs and was later given the all clear. An action-packed race saw impressive German rookie Stefan Bradl move into third place on his Honda only for catastrophe to strike as he went too low on a corner and came off the bike.

Up front both Lorenzo and Pedrosa were clear and contesting the lead. That developed into an enthralling contest with Pedrosa overtaking his compatriot with 17 laps remaining and he pulled away with surprising ease to hold a lead of over 2sec after 10 laps and was never in danger thereafter.

Further down the field Rossi was making up for his misjudgement by cutting through the field and with 14 laps of the 23 remaining but he was unable to eat into Rea's lead over him and wound up eighth.