It was a day of mixed fortunes for the Yamaha MotoGP squad with reigning world champion Jorge Lorenzo securing a brilliant victory in the Gran Premio d’Italia after snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
His achievement is the more remarkable after his engine let go in spectacular fashion during the warm-up, a fate which also struck team-mate Valentino Rossi, although the Italian’s failed in spectacular style during the race itself.
Jorge Lorenzo rode his signature race, fighting through the grid to take the holeshot going into the first corner. With his team-mate on his tail, he led across the line after the first lap, but it soon became clear his fellow Yamaha rider would not go down without a fight. The Doctor made a pass going into Turn One, but Lorenzo was not shaken and quickly regained the lead as the Italian ran wide.
With a clear track ahead the #99 rider tried to make a break, putting in metronomic lap after metronomic lap, but he was unable to shake Rossi who continued to pile on the pressure, ready to seize any opportunity to pass. However, the smooth Spaniard left no space for him to slip past and made sure to brake at the last possible moment every time going into turn one to keep the lead.
Lorenzo rode defensively until Rossi retired after his engine lunched itself in spectacular style. However, there was no rest for Lorenzo as Repsol Honda’s Marc Marquez caught the Yamaha man with ten laps to go. With five points between them in the championship, the two Spaniards traded blows in some close racing, Marquez constantly probing and attacking, taking the lead diving into corners, but unable to get the Honda stopped on the brakes, allowing Lorenzo to slip inside.
The last lap saw a series of brutal moves, with Lorenzo making an unexpected overtaking manoeuvre in the Scarperia corner. It didn’t stick, but Lorenzo used his experience and launched his YZR-M1 out of the last corner to get the tow and steal the victory, his third of the season, as he crossed the line just 0.019s ahead of Marquez.
The win is Yamaha’s hundredth premier class win of the modern four-stroke era, and their third consecutive first place of the 2016 season.
Speaking after the race, Jorge Lorenzo said: “It was an unexpected race, because we thought that Iannone and Viñales, who had a very high pace, would be fighting until the end for the victory, but in the end it was Marquez. “He didn’t look like he had the pace in the practice sessions, but he was following me the whole race. I tried to escape, pushing so much on the changes in direction and I used a lot of energy.
“I thought I maybe I didn’t have enough to fight with Marc for the victory, because with him riding behind me he maybe saved more energy and was more powerful at the end, but my luck was the engine this time. When I stayed behind him I thought I was losing the race and tried a bit of a crazy move that I pulled on De Angelis in 250cc in the race in 2005. This memory was in my head, so I said to myself “Why not try the same?” and did it.
“I passed him but went wide and he overtook me again. In the last corner I tried again under braking, but he closed the door so much that if I had released the brake maybe we could have touched and crashed together, so I decided to stay in second place and make a lot of speed in the last corner and exit with the slipstream and try. When I exited the corner I thought I was losing the race, but my bike caught up with him so much, it was a surprising win.
“In Moto3 we often see races like this, but in MotoGP this kind of finish doesn’t happen often. Today, if I had been fighting with Rossi or Iannone, I wouldn’t have won, it was a crazy battle.”
Team-mate Rossi was not so fortunate – starting from pole position, the Italian made a strong start and slotted in behind Lorenzo going into turn one. Determined not to let the Spaniard get away, Rossi briefly took the lead in the second lap of the race going into turn one, but had to hand it back when he ran wide. With the massive support from his fans cheering him on, the Doctor kept as close to Lorenzo as possible while keeping Marquez at a distance, but his race ended prematurely with 15 laps to go when his engine let go.
Lorenzo’s 25 point haul from Mugello keeps him in first position in the championship standings, with 115 points. He has a ten-point lead over Marquez and is 37 points ahead of Rossi in third place.