Marc Marquez maintained his 100 percent record in 2014 by overcoming a rejuvenated Jorge Lorenzo in another thrilling MotoGP encounter at the sixth round of the season at Mugello.
The two Spaniards, who lit up the world championship in the second half of 2013, were at it again in Italy in a race long duel. The pair were never separated by more than 0.3 seconds after the fifth lap and continued to exchange aggressive moves right up until the final circulation.
With Lorenzo knowing Marquez would escape if he led onto the start-finish straight due to the Honda’s superior top speed, he put in a series of hard moves through the infield section to keep his rival at bay. But Marquez made the decisive move at San Donato on the final lap to win by 0.1 seconds despite Lorenzo’s best efforts with outside attempts through Correntaio and Bucine.
The battle at the front somewhat overshadowed Valentino Rossi’s 300th grand prix, a feat he celebrated with a solid third place finish in front of 77,000 adoring Italians. Rossi suffered a disastrous qualifying on Saturday, forcing him to start from tenth position and the third row.
Yet he managed to climb seven places in the opening three laps, passing a fast starting Andrea Iannone and Dani Pedrosa to go third early on with Marquez just one second up the road. That deficit was a step too far however, and Rossi could only maintain that gap until the ninth lap before it eventually ballooned to over three seconds.
Marquez closed Lorenzo’s early one second lead down by lap seven and seemed to be biding his time before moving to the front, as he has done so consummately all season. When he made his move on lap 17 Lorenzo reacted instantly. The final six laps saw the pair exchange positions countlessly, with the late-braking Lorenzo barging through at San Donato. But it wouldn’t be enough.
Dani Pedrosa struggled through to fourth place after a slow start saw him stationed in a battle with Andrea Iannone in the first half of the race. Iannone, who qualified second, was a persistent bee in Pedrosa’s bonnet, making use of Ducati’s engine upgrades to draft by the Honda on the front straight and out-brake him into San Donato. Iannone put in a commendable effort but eventually slipped to seventh at the end, behind Pol Espargaro and Andrea Dovizioso.
Bautista was next along ahead of Aleix Espargaro and Yonny Hernandez completed the top ten after a fierce four-rider battle with Michele Pirro, Karel Abraham and Scott Redding was decided in his favour on the final lap.
The opening laps claimed many riders, including Bradley Smith who crashed out of ninth place on lap three and Cal Crutchlow. The Ducati man was holding eighth when he slipped off a lap later on the entry to Poggio Secco. He slid to safety but his Ducati rolled across the track, tagging Stefan Bradl’s Honda and sending the German flying into the air. Luckily both were uninjured.
Marquez’s win marks only the second occasion he has been seriously challenged in 2014, and the first time since he returned to full fitness. It also saw Lorenzo back to his fast starting, no nonsense best after a seriously underwhelming opening to the season.
The pair embraced in parc ferme, both with plenty of reason to cheer. Marquez said, “This race was the hardest of the year. I was struggling to follow Jorge, his corner speed was so high with a lot of edge grip. But I was able to overtake him on the straight, we adjusted our 6th gear to make this overtake. Another victory, this one is the most special!”
Lorenzo was a little disconsolate after missing out so narrowly at a track he had won at on the previous three occasions. When asked whether we had witnessed the ‘real’ Jorge riding today he said, “Similar to the best Jorge for sure. My physical condition was good which makes the difference. We found something to improve the acceleration. Marc was fantastic on the braking but today we could fight and this was a significant thing. But the top speed was important, he could get past and Marc was very brave.”
Rossi was clearly expecting more at his home race but maintained he was content with a first home podium since 2009. He said, “If I have a small chance to stay with Marc and Jorge we lose it in qualifying. In the 1st laps I was lucky and strong. I arrive early but I already have 1.5sec (gap) but Jorge and Marc were faster in the final section. But it’s great to be back on the podium in front of the home fans.”
Marquez’s sixth consecutive MotoGP win, the first time a rider has done that since Valentino Rossi in 2002, extends his championship lead to 53 points over Rossi (97) who leapfrogs Pedrosa (96) into second. The second Repsol rider sits just a point behind Rossi and 31 ahead of Lorenzo (65) in fourth. Dovizioso (63) drops a place to fifth, two behind Lorenzo.
The full results from the 23 lap Italian Grand Prix:
1. Marc Marquez Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 41m 38.254s
2. Jorge Lorenzo Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 41m 38.375s
3. Valentino Rossi Movistar Yamaha MotoGP (YZR-M1) 41m 40.942s
4. Dani Pedrosa Repsol Honda Team (RC213V) 41m 52.300s
5. Pol Espargaro Monster Yamaha Tech 3 (YZR-M1)* 41m 53.857s
6. Andrea Dovizioso Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 41m 55.296s
7. Andrea Iannone Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 41m 55.383s
8. Alvaro Bautista Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RC213V) 42m 5.661s
9. Aleix Espargaro NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 42m 20.140s
10. Yonny Hernandez Pramac Racing (Desmosedici) 42m 23.466s
11. Michele Pirro Ducati Team (Desmosedici) 42m 23.687s
12. Karel Abraham Cardion AB Motoracing (RCV1000R) 42m 24.085s
13. Scott Redding Go&Fun Honda Gresini (RCV1000R)* 42m 24.093s
14. Hiroshi Aoyama Drive M7 Aspar (RCV1000R) 42m 25.088s
15. Colin Edwards NGM Forward Racing (Forward Yamaha) 42m 47.808s
16. Michael Laverty Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART) 42m 56.043s
17. Broc Parkes Paul Bird Motorsport (PBM-ART)* 43m 13.285s
18. Mike Di Meglio Avintia Racing (Avintia)* 43m 15.755s
Post first featured on paddockchatter.com; republished with permission.