Valentino Rossi may have been unable to score, but the fans in Mugello were treated to a do or die duel between Lorenzo and Marquez.
For the first time since 2008, Valentino Rossi (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) lined up for the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM in pole. The last time he started from pole in Mugello he won, having not returned to the top step of the podium since 2008. Over 100,000 people lined the hillside stands of Mugello to see if ‘The Doctor’ could win once more. But it wasn’t going to be easy with Maverick Viñales (Team Suzuki Ecstar) and Andrea Iannone (Ducati Team) right alongside him on the front row.
Riders filtered through clouds of yellow smoke on their warm up lap, getting a final pre-race taste of what the Mugello circuit was like. There was little time to think as the lights went out, Jorge Lorenzo (Movistar Yamaha MotoGP) making an incredible start to lead into Turn 1 from fifth on the grid. It was a disastrous start for Viñales who dropped down to 11th.
Jack Miller (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS), Alvaro Bautista (Aprilia Racing Team Gresini) and Loris Baz (Avintia Racing) all came together at the first corner and fell. The trio retired from the race, Baz heading to the medical center for checks. The French rider was diagnosed with a fracture of the third metatarsal and will undergo surgery in Switzerland.
Every lap Rossi attempted to pass Lorenzo into Turn 1, but Lorenzo remained in charge thanks to his incredible performance under braking. Their battle had allowed Marc Marquez (Repsol Honda Team) to close down the Yamaha pair, the trio separated by under half a second. Lorenzo closed every door that Rossi tried to open, defending at every corner.
Further down the field Iannone and Viñales recovered from their poor starts as they blasted past Scott Redding (Octo Pramac Yakhnich) down the end of the straight to move into seventh and eighth.
On lap eight Mugello fell silent as Rossi encountered a technical problem. The Italian dropped down to ninth and continued to drop back, his race over. His head hung low as he pulled off to the side of the track and returned to the pits on a scooter. The fans were silent as their hero trudged into the pits, hardly lifting his visor.
Soon after Redding also retired from the race due to a technical issue.
Rossi may have retired but the race was by no means over, Marquez right behind Lorenzo as they crossed mid-race distance. Their battle wasn’t the only one, as Iannone’s comeback from a poor start continued, finding himself behind his teammate and battling for third. Iannone would eventually gain the upper hand, moving to third on the 17th lap but Dovizioso responded soon after, all the while Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda Team) closed in. A mistake from Dovizioso ended his chances of a podium.
On lap 20 Marquez launched his first attack but ran wide, Lorenzo hanging onto the lead. The attacks didn’t stop and Marquez passed Lorenzo at the start of the final lap but Lorenzo responded again. Marquez looked to have the race won as they exited the final corner but his front wheel lifted ever so slightly, Lorenzo able to grab an incredible photo finish victory. 0.019s is all that separated them across the line, the closest finish of the year.
Pedrosa and Iannone’s battle also went down to the final lap with Iannone able to win out by 0.168s and return to the podium once again. Seventh place saw Bradley Smith (Monster Yamaha Tech 3) finish as the top Independent Team rider.
Lorenzo leaves Mugello with a ten point lead over Marc Marquez in the World Championship standings, Rossi holding onto third overall but now 37 points behind his teammate.
During the race Andrea Iannone hit 354.9km/h, setting a new top speed record in the MotoGP™ World Championship.
France’s Johann Zarco came out on top after a thrilling ten lap battle with Lorenzo Baldassarri, the Italian taking second with Lowes third.
Ideal conditions continued in Mugello as preparations for the Gran Premio d’Italia TIM began in the Moto2™ class. The track kept getting hotter, ground temperature at 42°C as Sam Lowes (Federal Oil Gresini Moto2) rolled into pole position on the grid. 31 Moto2™ riders lurched forward for the 21-lap race, Tom Luthi (Garage Plus Interwetten) and Lorenzo Baldassarri (Forward Team) leading into the first corner but coming into contact and dropping back. By the exit of Savelli, Lowes was back in the lead with Takaaki Nakagami (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia) trying to fend of Baldassarri.
Having crashed out of the previous two races while challenging for a potential podium, Baldassarri remained hyper aggressive in second. Meanwhile Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) made his way into the top five from ninth on the grid.
Alex Marquez (Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS) and Luca Marini (Forward Racing) were involved in an incident together on the third lap at Turn 3, ending their races. It was an equally difficult race for Jonas Folger (Dynavolt Intact GP) who pulled into the pits with technical issues.
After his early contact with Baldassarri, Luthi was able to compose himself and slid into the lead on the fourth lap. A clear five-rider group was now streaking away at the front.
Xavier Vierge (Tech 3 Racing) lost the front at Turn 13, his bike hitting the air fence and brought out the red flag due to safety conditions. All air fences must be inflated for racing to run, safety paramount in the World Championship.
The race was eventually restarted and set to be 10 laps, the grid decided based on the position of riders on the third lap. As such Lowes lined up on pole ahead of Luthi and Nakagami after the quick restart procedure. But Nakagami, Julian Simon (QMMF Racing Team), Xavier Simeon (QMMF Racing Team), Simone Corsi (Speed Up Racing), Ratthapark Wilairot (Idemitsu Honda Team Asia), Edgar Pons (Paginas Amarillas HP 40), Federico Fuligni (Team Ciatti) and championship leader Alex Rins (Paginas Amarillas HP 40) were all sent to the back of the grid for delaying the race restart.
Xavier Simeon crashed on the formation lap and was therefore unable to restart the race, even from the back of the grid.
Tom Luthi was fastest off the line in the restart, Lowes getting shuffled down the order as Hafizh Syahrin (Petronas Raceline Malaysia) shot into third. Baldassarri was again a man on a mission as the Italian moved into the lead. Lowes remained at the back of the leading five riders, Zarco just ahead of him.
The shortened race produced thrilling action as tyre wear was of no concern, Baldassarri, Zarco and Luthi battling freely at the front. All the while Axel Pons (AGR Team) crept towards the leading group. Behind Rins made great progress through the field and was soon inside the points after his back of the grid start.
Zarco and Baldassarri gave each other no quarter, every open door quickly taken advantage of as the two danced around the 5.245kms of Mugello. It was between the pair as the final lap began, Baldassarri attacking into San Donato but Zarco responded. The Frenchman pushed to the limit to hold onto the lead, clinching victory by 0.030s from Baldassarri. Victory moves Zarco to third in the standings, reigniting his title defence.
The last lap also saw a great recovery from Sam Lowes, the Brit charging through on Luthi to take third place.
Hafizh Syahrin took a stellar fifth place finish ahead of Axel Pons who took his third top ten of the year. Alex Rins made a commendable comeback to eventually finish in sixth and limit the damage to his championship, slipping just two points behind Lowes. There are just 17 points between Lowes in first and Luthi in fourth, it’s still anyone’s championship in the middleweight class.