After Valentino Rossi ended up as pole winner on Saturday for the first time since 2008, he aspired to win the Italian MotoGP in his native country on Sunday. It could have been a repeat performance of 2008 for Rossi but his dream went up in smokes with a 9th lap retirement. Rossi’s Movistar Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo clinched top honors in the 2016 Italian MotoGP but the Mugello race will certainly go down as one of Lorenzo’s greatest career races. The climax came in the scintillating final lap with Repsol Honda rider and 2013/2014 world champion Marc Marquez seriously challenging Lorenzo even as the chequered flag was only at a hand-shaking distance. For a while, it looked as though Marquez had gone clear off Lorenzo but the Yamaha rider made one last audacious push and disappointed Marquez with a bike-length victory.
However, the 100,000-strong crowd had not gathered at Mugello race circuit to watch the Lorenzo-Marquez duel. Their main focus was the home hero Valentino Rossi, a man of many seasons and someone, who had the top pole position, he had dominatingly acquired from his future teammate Maverick Vinales of Suzuki in Saturday’s qualifying. Ducati’s Andrea Iannone was third, Marquez and Lorenzo were fourth and fifth, Suzuki Ecstar rider Aleix Espargaro, sixth, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa seventh, Monster Yamaha’s Bradley Smith eighth, Danilo of Octo Pramac ninth and Danilo’s teammate Scott Redding tenth. Though Rossi began well in Sunday’s main event, a lightening start by Jorge Lorenzo allowed the Spaniard to overtake the home hero on first corner. A huge cheer greeted Rossi at the start of the second lap, when he briefly went past Lorenzo. But a deep braking action threw Rossi wide as Lorenzo went past once more. From this point onwards, Rossi kept himself on Lorenzo’s tail and kept his countrymen in raptures.
Rossi’s partner on front row, Maverick Vinales had a disastrous start as he dropped to 11th and worse fate beckoned Estrella Galicia’s Jack Miller, Aprilia Racing’s Alvaro Bautista and Avintia’s Loris Baz, all of whom fell together at the first corner and crashed out of the race. Rossi tried his best to go past Lorenzo but Lorenzo didn’t cede control due to his top-class performance under braking. The battle between the two Yamaha teammates allowed Marc Marquez to close in on Rossi. It was the a great sight to behold as the three top riders in the world, rode with less than half-a- second separating them. At every corner, Rossi tried a new trick to overtake Lorenzo but Lorenzo closed every door for his Italian teammate. Behind the three top riders, Iannone and Vinales had recovered from their poor starts and they rode as 7th and 8th.
All of a sudden, a hushed silence fell at the Mugello Circuit. Rossi encountered an engine failure in lap eight and he dropped to the 9th spot. He slipped further and further and the race was over for him by lap nine. He looked utterly dejected as he pulled over to the side of the track and went to the pits on a scooter. His fans felt heartbroken for some time before the reality sank. Soon afterwards, Scott Redding also retired due to his own technical issue. When Rossi left the track, Marquez was still on a hot chase behind Lorenzo with Dovizioso at third place. However, Iannone had comeback from his poor start and now chased his Ducati teammate for the third place. While Lorenzo and Marquez kept battling ahead, Iannone had his own battle with Dovizioso and he seemed to briefly pass Dovizioso on 17th lap, but Dovizioso regained his lead soon. However, an error cost Dovizioso the podium spot on Sunday.
Up ahead, Marquez kept attacking Lorenzo and though Lorenzo didn’t yield, Marquez managed to pass Lorenzo at the start of the final lap. The race became thrilling in the final seconds. Lorenzo got back his lead but on the last corner, Marquez went ahead yet again and looked like winning. However, as Marquez went past, his front wheel lifted slightly. That gave Lorenzo a chance as he pushed ahead and beat Marquez by 0.019 second in an incredible photo-finish. Iannone finally found the third podium spot as he beat Dani Pedrosa by 0.168s. Iannone also logged a new top speed record of 354.9km/h in MotoGP World Championships. Dovizioso finished fifth, Maverick Vinales sixth, Bradley Smith seventh, Danilo Petrucci, eighth, Aleix Espargaro ninth and Ducati test rider Michele Pirro rounded up the top 10.
At the end of it all, Lorenzo left Mugello with a 10-point lead over Marquez in the Championship standings, while the third-placed Rossi is now 37 points adrift of Lorenzo. The most remarkable feature at Mugello was the deft control by Lorenzo, who never seemed as the fastest man but still used his wits to keep in front at most times, except on two occasions in the climatic last lap.
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